What is Metta and how do I do it?

Overhead shot of a woman drinking tea on a cross leg position.

This post is written by my friend, Deb Sheahan, a Buddhist meditation practitioner.

What is Metta Meditation

“Metta” comes to us from an ancient Indian language called Pali, and it translates as lovingkindness or friendliness.  Normally, when we think about meditation we imagine sitting in silence and focusing on something pretty neutral like the breath, physical sensations, a guided voice, or our own inner mantra.

Metta is different in that it is an active form of meditation where instead of focusing on the breath, vocal guidance or mantra, we focus on sending good thoughts and wishes out into the world, and we imagine that the people—or animals—in our minds are touched by our good will. In some forms of this meditation, we go a step further and imagine that whoever the object of our metta may be (and this includes ourselves) is relieved of their particular form of discomfort, unease or pain as they are touched by the power of our goodwill.

How is it done

Sit with your back straight in a regular seated meditation posture. Take a moment to set aside your busy-ness and tune into being present.

Connect with your breathing and spend a few minutes focusing on the movement of the breath. Notice the physical sensations that accompany this movement.

When ready, imagine someone you care about, someone you’re grateful for, and simply wish them well with these words (you can adapt the phrases as you see fit), either spoken out loud or in your mind:

  • May you be safe
  • May you be happy
  • May you be healthy
  • May your mind be at ease.

Some teachers recommend that you begin with yourself:

  • May I be safe
  • May I be happy
  • May I be healthy
  • May my mind be at ease.

Take the time to visualize the object of your meditation and feel the outpouring of goodwill.

At this point you might choose to extend your goodwill a bit further, imagining someone you don’t particularly feel one way or the other about. Keeping that person in mind, send them your goodwill.

The next step is to imagine someone you really don’t appreciate and do the same thing. It could be someone you know personally or someone you know through world media.  Either way, it is someone who challenges your ability to wish them well.

Finally, extend your well-wishes to the world.