Metta meditation, otherwise known as lovingkindness meditation, has been practiced in its traditional form since the time of the Buddha. It is the practice of cultivating love for all beings. We recognize that all beings just want to be happy, and that this wish underlies all action. It brings light and joy to the mind, and helps support us amidst the sometimes turbulent forces in our lives.
When we practice metta, we cultivate our innate capacity to love unconditionally. This is not love without boundaries; it is quite the opposite. Sometimes we must say “no” to others quite fiercely, while holding unconditional regard for this person’s well-being in our hearts. Metta also supports us in saying “yes” to others, and to the world when our fears of being vulnerable would close our hearts. With the practice of metta, our hearts become stronger in every way. Metta meditation is practiced by reciting traditional phrases, meant to offer our wishes for the happiness of all beings. We start by offering metta to ourselves, and then move to a benefactor, a neutral person, and a difficult person.
I first discovered metta meditation 3 years ago while on a meditation retreat. It immediately resonated with my heart. It was what I had been working on myself for many years, without knowing others who were doing the practice. Being in a rigorous graduate program, I couldn’t very well tell other students or my professors that I was trying to discover the true nature of love, and to finally love myself. What I had learned about love in childhood was that it was all for others, and none for myself. Inside though, this never felt right. It only made me want to hide from the world, because loving everyone else at my own expense was so exhausting. To this day when I begin to touch my heart, it feels as though a child is leaping up at me, desperate for my care and attention. This experience has become very dear to me, and shows me how truly my heart needs nourishment. Metta is the food of my heart. Over the years, my life has been transformed merely by uncovering and beginning to embody what was already there. I am more patient, calm, content, and steady. I am more lively, free, and open. I am more me.
We need this practice now more than ever. Our understanding of our connection to one another and to all beings has never been more fragile. Our connection to ourselves, to our true nature, has never been more fragile. We would love for you to come practice with us, and to discover the innate joy and freedom that rest in your heart, just waiting to be touched.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your Self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Thank you for sharing your intimately true feelings. I resonate with what you write. I too love others at the expense of myself and then wonder what loving others really means. I hope I can come and learn this meditation.