One of my favourite styles of meditation (and one that I think is accessible and easy to understand) is Metta meditation. I first learned of this style a little over 5 years ago, and loved it right from the start. Essentially it is a Buddhist practice of cultivating a gentle and warm-hearted feeling to yourself and to those around you.
I often share this style of meditation with people who are new to the practice, or with those who have struggled with a mindfulness meditation practice (simply sitting and noticing). While metta meditation is not necessarily guided, it is structured, and I find that the structure helps me to stay focused. Consistently working on metta meditation has also improved my ability to practice some of those other more challenging styles.
In terms of structure, there are a set of phrases that are repeated with different people as the “targets”, starting with oneself and working outwards. The order that I use is:
- Loved one – someone close to you who you already feel warmly towards
- Acquaintance – this can be someone such as the cashier at the grocery store, a neighbour you see in passing, or a coworker that you do not regularly interact with
- Difficult relationship – someone who you do not get along with or someone you are currently having a difficult time with
- Larger Community – your neighbourhood, your community group, etc.
When I was introduced to this practice, I was given certain phrases to meditate on, however I have since adapted them to suit my own wishes. You can do the same. These are my phrases:
- May you be healthy and strong
- May you love others and be loved in return
- May you find joy in every day
When you are ready to begin practicing, look inwards and set an intention of lovingkindness. I find that it can really help to be prepared with something that makes you feel grateful or warm inside and to help cultivate that feeling.
Visualize the person who is your “target” person. Notice how that visualization makes you feel – some can be more challenging than others. Once you have that vision of the person firmly in mind, come back to the phrases you have decided on. Continuing to visualize the person, repeat each of the phrases slowly, one after another.
Allow yourself a moment to pause, to reflect and to prepare before moving on to the next person on your list.
One of the most amazing things I have found with this practice is that although the “difficult relationship” can often bring up the most resistance, that is the one I feel best after completing. Don’t rush it, and don’t push it. Notice when you feel uncomfortable or disconnected from the practice and take time to re-centre.
If you are interested in reading about this practice from another perspective, this is a great resource: