Loving Kindness (Mettā) is one of the most powerful meditation subjects. The Buddha himself expressed goodwill as follows: “Whatever living beings there may be; Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none, the great or the mighty, medium, short or small, the seen and the unseen, those living near and far away, those born and to-be-born — May all beings be at ease!”
The Buddha, Karaniya Metta Sutta (Sn 1.8)
Loving kindness, goodwill or benevolence manifests as the sincere wish for oneself and others to experience true happiness, a type of wellbeing not relying on circumstances. Furthermore, it is firmly rooted in acceptance. Mettā, as it’s called in the ancient Pali language, supports and enhances our meditation practice on many levels.
The nature of this practice revolves around the creation of wholesome and constructive personality traits. Motivated by goodwill, the practitioner works on becoming a source of happiness and wellbeing both to oneself and indirectly to others. Hence, it is a fundamental aspect of the spiritual path. Cultivating a benevolent attitude is an inspiring and meaningful way to spend our relatively short time here on this earth.
A person with a kind heart experiences a special sort of joyful comfort. It is quite different from the relatively well-known forms of happiness that come with short-term sense-gratification. It’s a profound experience that feels pure and innocent, perhaps because it’s based on giving rather than on taking. Just like compassion, true kindness is dependent on a practical understanding of suffering and its cessation.
Generating Mettā or goodwill is something that’s quite easy once you let go of the idea that you have to ‘know everything’ about it before you can practice it. Real knowledge must be based on experience. Experience comes from continuous and consistent practice. In the next paragraph I will introduce you to a simple technique. Try to slowly feel your way into this approach and give it time.
1. Sit in a comfortable and upright posture, gently stretch your spine. After that, take a few minutes to pay attention to the flow of breath-energy within your body. This will help you to arrive in the present moment where body and mind can settle down.
2. Now think of a good friend, someone you like. Visualize him sitting in front of you. In addition, feel the presence of him as if he is right there with you. By the way, if you find the mind is too distracted you should probably spend more time with the first step.
3. Once you are somewhat settled within the visualized situation, wish your friend to be happy and well. Use your own words if you like. Notice how it makes you feel to express this wish with clarity and intention.
4. Furthermore, you can expand the feeling of kindness in the form of white light. Let it emanate from your heart and send it to your friend.
You could extend this approach by sending kindness to yourself first. However, many people express difficulties with accepting themselves. That’s why I recommend starting with a good friend in order to get a sense of how it feels like. Once you get better, extend Mettā to yourself. Then proceed by sending kindness to a stranger. After that, send it to someone you don’t like or a person who has harmed you. Finally, extend goodwill in all directions and radiate it to all living beings. This will make your kindness immeasurable, unconditional and boundless.
Now here’s what’s really important: You’ve got to stick to this and make it work. Changing techniques and looking for “something that works” is going to steal a lot of your valuable time. Stay with this approach and see how you can fill it with life while diving deeper into it. This is one of the secrets to success with almost any technique – you learn and adjust as you go along.
There are many benefits of loving kindness meditation. Kindness promotes good health, radiance and meaningful relationships. It succesfully counteracts anger issues, depression and anxiety as well as sleeping disorders and lack of self-respect. As kindness is rooted in acceptance it gives all of us the permission to be who we are. Therefore I also refer to it as a “liberating power”.
The Buddha himself lists several interesting benefits: “A man sleeps in comfort; wakes in comfort; dreams no evil dreams; is dear to human beings and non-human beings; the gods guard him; no fire or poison or weapon harms him; his mind can be quickly concentrated; the expression of his face is serene; he dies without falling into confusion; and, even if he fails to penetrate any further, he will pass on to the world of High Divinity, to the Brahma world.” (AN, 11:16)
Mettā fuels the path toward profound peace and true happiness. To advance in our spiritual practice and delve into the realms of deep Meditation it is necessary to be happy and at ease with ourselves. Furthermore, the profound sense of happiness this practice generates acts as protection and guiding light on the way. Even within the external world it has the power to effectively protect our communities against the forces of malevolence and darkness.
In my experience there is no real progress if we are not cultivating an open heart. As we get better with this practice and our heart becomes more spacious it will eventually be able to accommodate even those who express nothing but darkness. People who are shaped and posessed by pain need kindness the most. Consequently, the Buddha said in the Dhammapada (Dhp I): “Hostilities aren’t stilled through hostility, regardless. Hostilities are stilled through non-hostility: this, an unending truth.”
Remember that kindness is not weakness. That is to say, confronting even the greatest evil with kindness is actually true strength. Addressing hate and darkness with fear and ignorance is like nourishing a fire with gasoline. Throughout the ages this principle has been shown to work repeatedly.
Imagine you start every day with the strong motivation to focus on growing a kind heart. When the sun rises (or whenever you get out of bed), set the firm intention of cultivating kindness whenever you interact with others. Consequently, you will start to remember your intention throughout the day. As you go to bed at night, recapitulate your day. It’s best to write it down. For instance, you could try our free 21 day challenge as it shows your commitment to practice and progress. It is certainly very motivating to see how you are getting better everyday.
In the spirit of this article I wish you all the very best and much success with this beautiful practice. In other words, may you find peace; May you be truly happy and look after yourself with ease.
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