Sharing a metta (loving-kindness/friendship) meditation with my Hiking Yoga students today, under the sweet sun rays, just at the shore of the lake in Prospect Park, was a true gift.
They were led through a visualization involving someone they love, who they feel comfortable with, who they feel they can be themselves around no matter what. We sat with them in this visualization and imagined our love for them as a white ball of light. We offered the light to this person as a symbol of gratitude, and observed how that felt in our own bodies. We then contemplated how the recipient of that love might react. It was a short 8 minute session, full of gratitude, lightness of heart, and warmth.
One of my oldest friends joined us, and it was her first meditation session ever!
Metta meditation can be helpful for depression and chronic pain and I invited participants to use this meditation on people they feel anger for as well. It’s a powerful way to assuage negative emotions, even if it feels counter-intuitive at first.
There are hundreds of metta meditations out there; here is a beautiful session from Sharon Salzberg.
The definition of metta, according to Wikipedia:
Mettā (Pali: मेत्ता in Devanagari) or maitrī (Sanskrit: मैत्री) is loving-kindness,friendliness, benevolence, amity, friendship, good will, kindness,close mental union (on same mental wavelength), and active interest in others. It is one of the ten pāramīs of the Theravāda school of Buddhism, and the first of the four sublime states (Brahmavihāras). This is love without clinging (upādāna).
The cultivation of loving-kindness (mettā bhāvanā) is a popular form of meditation in Buddhism. In the Theravadin Buddhist tradition, this practice begins with the meditator cultivating loving-kindness towards themselves, then one’s loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, enemies, and finally towards all sentient beings. In the Tibetan Buddhisttradition, this practice is associated with tonglen (cf.), whereby one breathes out (“sends”) happiness and breathes in (“receives”) suffering. Tibetan Buddhists also practice contemplation of the Brahmavihāras, also called the four immeasurables, which is sometimes called ‘compassion meditation’
“Compassion meditation” is a contemporary scientific field that demonstrates the efficacy of metta and related meditative practices.