Updated: Jan 16
I brought up the metta meditation once before in my blogpost about using a mala. Today I want to dive a little deeper. In English the metta meditation is also called the loving-kindness meditation. The word "metta" originates from Pali and also means loving kindness.
The metta meditation is used a lot in Buddhism. During this meditation you want to feel love and kindness towards all living beings. Not just towards the people close to you but towards anything and everyone. The metta meditation can be done on its own and will often take anywhere between half an hour up too an hour (however you could make it as long as you wish) but during retreats it might also be done at the and of a vipassana meditation and might only take about 5 minutes or so.
During a metta meditation you continuously speak a wish towards yourself and others. You start with yourself, then you go to someone you love (family, friends, teachers), acquaintances, strangers, someone with whom you are on unfriendly terms, a group of people (that could be the group you are meditating in, your neighbourhood, city or country) en in the end the whole world and the entire universe. You can make a metta meditation as extensive or as small as you like.
You can vary the wishes you use or use a wish that resonates with you at that moment. And you are absolutely welcome to make up your own wishes. examples of wishes you can use are:
May you/I be happy.
May you/I be healthy.
May you/I be peaceful.
May you/I be free of physical and mental suffering.
May you/I be free of dukkha.
May you/I be loving.
You are wishing these things towards someone, so it is different from an affirmation. While you are doing this you try to tap into a feeling of love within you. In case you lose that feeling during the meditation you try to tap into it again. You can do this by going back to a phase where is was easier for you to tap into that feeling. For example when you were sending the wishes towards someone you lover or yourself.
If you are really having some difficulty it can help to picture the person as a small child. All that child wants is to feel loved and be happy. You can give the child that love. Open up your heart for the child, you can even picture yourself taking the child on your lap and hugging it. A pet can work really well here too. Or a kitten or puppy.
In case at some point tapping into your feeling of metta and staying there is super easy for you, you can just stay with that feeling and stop using the words.
Another way to practice metta is by reading a text. A good example would be the metta sutta. Here too it is important to tap into that feeling of metta, of loving-kindness.
A different way to practice metta is by using mala beads. This is something I personally like to do. With every bead you repeat a word or sentence. And here too it is important to tap into that feeling of metta.
You can go through the entire necklace for one phase. So for yourself or someone you love or even the whole world or entire universe. But you can also choose to use only part of the necklace for one person or even just one bead. With your mala you can, just like with the meditation on its own, vary endlessly and choose something to suit you at that moment.
Another way to do the metta meditation is to combine metta with a walking meditation. With every step you take you say a wish. Again, it can be the same one with every step or you can change and you can choose to focus the metta on the same person or a different one. Doing this you don't just focus on the metta but also on the walking. You take every step very consciously and feel the loving-kindness with every wish. This way of practicing is also a great way to practice your concentration.
Then there is what I like to call pingpong-metta. This is a method you can use while you are living your everyday life. When you are walking on the street, biking or driving your car. Imagine a ping-pong ball made of a radiant gold light. If you like you can add a smiley or a heart to it. That little ball is the metta that you are going to "throw" to other people. In your mind you can now throw that little ball to passers-by and imagine how they are being surrounded by the light of your metta. And yes, here too, try to feel it.
With that I am going to wish you all the happiness and lots of succes (and fun) practicing metta. Goodluck with the next steps on your bridge.