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The Lovingkindness Meditation
by Elise Bialylew
The lovingkindness meditation, traditionally called the Metta practice, is a simple but profoundly powerful one. It not only helps us develop compassion in our lives, but also acts as an antidote to the negative feelings we can experience towards ourselves or others.
In an interview with Sharon Salzberg, one of the world’s leading insight meditation teachers, she explains:
Sometimes lovingkindness is described as extending friendship to ourselves and others. I think of it as a type of self therapy, where we don’t just develop self acceptance, but we also develop the skills to alchemise negative feelings towards others into compassion.
Lovingkindness is a form of love that is an ability, and, as research scientists have shown, it can be learned. It is the ability to look at ourselves and others with kindness instead of reflexive criticism; to include in our concern those to whom we normally pay no attention; to care for ourselves unconditionally instead of thinking, ‘I will love myself as long as I never make a mistake.’ It is the ability to gather our attention and really listen to others, even those we’ve written off as not worth our time. It is the ability to see the humanity in people we don’t know and the pain in people we find difficult.
If you’re new to the lovingkindness meditation bring an open mind and heart to the meditation today and don’t get caught up in the words, but rather the intention and spirit of the practice. The benefits of this practice can unexpectedly arise in your daily life, so stick with it and practice it throughout the week alongside the other meditations. You can also change the words so that they suit you more and feel more resonant and meaningful. Make it your own.
It felt awkward and forced for me initially, but it has become a practice that nourishes me especially when I’m feeling depleted or despairing about the state of the world and the immense suffering that exists within it. The practice is an opportunity to pause and consciously bring kindness and compassion to ourselves and others. It’s a beautiful way of reminding ourselves of the truth of our interdependence and interconnectedness. Through the practice, we connect with the universal desire for happiness and our shared vulnerability in the face of constant change.
For more guidance around the lovingkindness practice read The Happiness Plan, Chapter 4.