Sunday Meditation: Loving Kindness
Sundays are perfect days for beginning new habits, starting fresh, or refocusing. I am offering a series of meditation posts each Sunday for the next month with a type of meditation or tips for building a meditation practice. Join me for the weekly installments and share your experiences in the comments below. Namaste.
The Loving Kindness meditation, or Metta, is said to have been first taught by the Buddha. He gave the practice to a group of monks “as a way of surmounting terrible fear when it arises” (Sharon Salzberg, Loving-Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness). The monks used this form of meditation to overcome their fear and fill their minds with love, thus demonstrating the power of love over fear.
There are many variations of Metta. Most consist of a series of three or four phrases that are recited aloud or silently. Each phrase is repeated four times using different names or pronouns in each round. The first time phrases are recited for oneself. The second time the phrases are said for a loved one. The third round is for an acquaintance, or someone not known well. And, the final recitation of the phrases is for a “prickly” or challenging person. In this way Metta covers all of those around us, filling our world with love and positive energy.
The phrases that I use for my personal Loving Kindness meditation are as follows:
May ___________ be free from fear and self-harm.
May ___________ be happy with life as it is.
May ___________ find peace with what is to come.
Going through the rounds, I insert a name or pronoun into each blank stating the three phrases for each person. For instance, I begin with “May I be free from fear and self-harm” and immediately move on to “May I be happy with life as it is,” ending with “May I find peace with what is to come.” Next, I insert the name of a loved one and state all three phrases for that person, and so on.
This type of meditation can be practiced anywhere. I particularly enjoy this practice when I am walking, but also use Metta in a seated practice. I go through the phrases over and over throughout my walk, including everyone from my children to our neighbors, waitresses to coworkers. My practice of Metta extends to our dogs, too. I close my Loving Kindness meditation by extending each of the phrases to my family, my community, and my world.