Metta means loving kindness. It may sound overly sentimental, or even cheesy, but evidence shows its gentoe activation can radically change your life. Metta meditation is an ancient Buddhist practice that helps one build goodwill and friendliness toward others and oneself. You don’t have to be a Buddhist or believe in Buddhism to practice this meditation – just lie you don’t need to be religious to practice yoga or be Swedish to practice Swedish massage. A multitude of sacred writings demonstrate that kindness is not exclusive to any one religion or region; rather, practicing kindness is a way to heal and connect to our fundamental humanity.
Research published by Psychology Today reports that practicing loving-kindness meditation can provide relief from pain, illness, and stress, improve emtional intelligence, and increase our sense of connection to others and ourselves. Some studies show that practicing loving kindness can even slow biological aging.
Okay, so how can we practice Metta medication?
There are many approaches, and we will review one practice inspired by a guided meditation created by Eve Ekman, PhD., at the Greater Good Science Center.
Step (1) find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down
Step (2) connect with your breath. Feel the sensations of breathing in and breathing out. Pay attention to your breathing.
Step (3) when you are ready, fill your reservoir of kindness by thinking of someone who has your best interests at hearts, someone who has extended kindness, care, and support to you, or someone who loves and adores you. This could be a friend, family member, teacher, or colleague. Choose only one person and bring them to mind as though they were seated in front of you. Picture them smiling at you.
Step (4) Imagine them truly wishing for you to be successful, happy, and fulfilled, wishing for you to have a life that is flourishing and filled with love. Imaging this person beaming all of this toward you with their smile and from their eyes. With your next few inhales, draw in that intention of goodwill and well wishes from this person who cherishes you.
Step (4) Let go of the image of that person and continue to gather and cultivate any emotional residue of kindness you just experienced. Now, harness and extend those feelings and sensations to someone in your life who could use an extra boost. Bring them to mind vividly as though they were sitting in front of you. Wish for this person to be truly happy, fulfilled, joyful, and loved. As you inhale, draw in this intention. As you exhale, wish this person happiness, fulfillment, and flourishing.
Step (5) When you feel complete, release the image of this person. Notice the sensations in your body that arise. How do you feel when you generate, embody, and extend kindness? Complete the practice with three letting-go breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling out your mouth with deep, reverberatory sighs.
Source: Metta Meditation, by Heath and Nicole Reed, “Massage & Bodywork” (2023).