Kathleen McDonald teaches Loving-kindness, or Metta, the practice of wishing ourselves and others to be happy.

Photo by Jonathan Borba.

Loving-kindness, or Metta, is wishing ourselves and others to be happy. The Buddha taught us to generate this attitude toward all living beings, and he explained its many benefits. Not only is loving-kindness beneficial for others, it will also help us to be happier, healthier, and even sleep better at night!

Many teachers recommend first cultivating love for ourselves, because we cannot truly love others if we do not love ourselves. But if you find that too difficult, you can start with another person you find easy to love, then later move back to yourself.

Preparation

Sit comfortably. Relax your body and mind, letting all thoughts and worries subside. Mindfully observe your breath until you are calm and your awareness is focused in the here-and-now.

Motivation

Think that you are doing this meditation for the benefit of all living beings. Decide to do your best to stay focused on the meditation and not be distracted elsewhere.

The Meditation

Start by getting in touch with the feeling of loving-kindness. You can do this by thinking of someone you care about and letting your love for that person arise in your heart. (Note: Don’t worry if you are unable to actually feel love right away; it’s enough simply to do the following contemplation, and accept whatever experiences arise.)

Then, send loving-kindness to yourself. Loving yourself means accepting yourself as you are, with your faults and shortcomings. It means being a friend to yourself, rather than being angry that you aren’t the way you’d like to be; acknowledging the good in yourself, and wishing yourself happiness.

Accept that you want to be happy and you deserve to be happy and wish yourself all the happiness and goodness there is. You can say to yourself words such as the following: “May I be happy. May I be safe, free from harm and danger. May I have all that I need to be truly happy, peaceful, and satisfied. May all my thoughts and actions be positive, and all my experiences good.” (Feel free to change the words as you wish.)

Imagine that the warm energy of loving-kindness in your heart radiates out, gradually filling your body and mind, and you become suffused with happiness. Do this practice for at least five minutes a day until you are accustomed to it. Then you can gradually do longer sessions, and begin to generate loving-kindness for other people, starting with friends and relatives, then people you don’t know very well, and eventually even those you have difficulty with.

Dedication

Conclude the meditation by dedicating the positive energy you have created to all beings, wishing that they find happiness and, ultimately, enlightenment.

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