"When I arouse metta there is a clear awareness that this is the absence of anger.
This is what it feels like to be totally without anger."
- Bhikkhu Analayo
Metta, often translated as loving-kindness, is perhaps best understood as a profound sense of connection, imbued with a sense of friendliness. Metta practice is primarily a concentration practice. In Metta practice we train in attention: in how we pay attention, to whom we pay attention, and to whom we do not pay attention.
Metta meditation involves gathering our attention around the silent repetition of phrases, rather than on feeling the breath. Without trying to summon or fabricate a feeling, we let the power of wholehearted presence behind one phrase at a time guide the opening of the heart. The arc of the practice is to begin with offering loving kindness to yourself, and then continue to offering to a benefactor (someone it's easy to have warm feelings towards), a neutral person, a difficult person, and finally all beings everywhere.
Listen to meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg speak to the purpose and technique of Metta practice here:
When the Buddha spoke on the practice of metta, he highlighted its benefits for the practitioner:
"When the liberation of mind by loving kindness has been pursued, developed, and cultivated, made a vehicle and a basis, carried out, consolidated, and properly undertaken, eleven benefits are to be expected. What eleven?
(1) One sleeps well; (2) one awakens happily; (3) one does not have bad dreams; (4) one is pleasing to human beings; (5) one is pleasing to spirits; (6) deities protect one; (7) fire, poison, and weapons do not injure one; (8) one's mind quickly becomes concentrated; (9) one's facial complexion is serene; (10) one dies unconfused; and (11) if one does not penetrate further, one fares on the the brahma world." - Anguttura Nikaya 11:15, Pages 1573-1574 in the Wisdom Edition, trans. Bhikkhu Bodhi
This practice hold the potential for freeing us from anger, greed and aversion, and we are freed from these through the happiness we experience from metta as we practice and cultivate it in our hearts and lives.
This practice takes time, as it softens and opens the heart over time. With regular practice, you will begin to notice changes in your responses to yourself and others in daily life. Steady practice is key.
Here is a short Metta Meditation guided by Sharon to get you started in your own practice:
"I visited all quarters with my mind
Nor found I any dearer than myself;
Self is likewise to every other dear;
Who loves himself will never harm another."
- Visuddhimagga Chapter IX,
trans. Nanamoli Bhikkhu
Here is a link to a recitation of the Metta Sutta in the original Pali language as it was given, followed by an English translation.
Some years ago, I recorded a guided 4 week Metta Meditation Practice suitable for beginners, which you may download here free of charge.
May all beings be happy,
May all beings be healthy,
May all beings be free from suffering,
May all beings abide in peace and joy.
Dana Wyss Healing Arts
Breathe deeply, practice often, be well.