What is metta meditation?

14 April 2021 | By Yogobe

Metta meditation is a Buddhist meditation that focuses on loving kindness. You direct the feeling first to yourself, then to someone you hold close, and to all living beings. Here you will learn more about metta bhavana meditation that can help you to open your heart.

Metta bhavana – meditation for loving kindness

In Buddhism, there is no word that means the same as our Western "meditation". Instead, they usually use the word bhavana, which means "cultivation" or "cultivation of". For example, if you focus your attention on the breath, it is called anapanasati bhavana, ie the cultivation of attention (sati) on the inhalation and exhalation (ana-pana).

Bhavana shows that meditation is something you actively do, not something that just happens by itself. To meditate, some effort is needed – a balance between effort and receptivity, to let go. In metta bhavana, it is metta (loving kindness) that you grow, awaken or produce. 

Metta is a deep desire that things will go well for both yourself and others. It is free and does not need anything in return. This desire comes from an open heart, and is based on the fact that we deeply identify ourselves with other people and everything that lives and breathes.

Metta meditation – an excercise

  • Sit comfortably and relaxed.
  • Take two or three deep breaths with long exhalation.
  • Become aware of how you feel in the body, how you feel right now.
  • Give yourself permission to experience whatever you feel.
  • For a few minutes, feel or imagine how the breath moves through the center of your chest – in the area around the heart.
  • Peacefully begin to mentally repeat, slowly and steadily, the following or similar phrases:

May I be happy.
May I live in peace and harmony.
May I be safe and secure.
May I have patience and courage.

Start with yourself, then expand to someone close and then to all beings, "May you be ...". Try to keep the phrases in your heart just as you would hold something fragile and precious in your hand.

When you say the phrases, distracting thoughts may emerge. It starts to itch on your forehead, your knee hurts or you start thinking about the job interview you have tomorrow. When the distraction comes, try to get back to the phrase again and again.

The liberation of the heart – metta is also being kind to oneself

Of course we are not always so present or open-hearted, and it takes time and patience to cultivate metta. But if we are in contact with ourselves and are aware, we will naturally wish that things will go well for others. Metta can then arise only by thinking about or becoming aware of another.

Metta meditation can be the heart's path to liberation – having a friendly attitude towards oneself is also part of metta.

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