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"So much of our unhappy condition as living beings comes from the constricting effect of our negativity toward each other. We limit ourselves, and we limit others. We judge each other, compare ourselves to each other, demean and envy each other, and we ourselves suffer the strangling effects of these limitations." - Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness
In Western society, we have managed to cultivate so much judgement and resentment, both of others and ourselves. These emotions have become so ingrained in our society as well as in our own individual lives, buried deep within the fabric of the psyche, and reflected in so much we see around us, from personal interactions to television and film plots.
Perhaps it was precisely a desire to feel love and self-acceptance that brought you to the yoga mat and meditation cushion, and then one step further to deepen your practice by learning metta, or lovingkindness, meditation.
In metta practice, we begin by directing the feeling and words of lovingkindness to ourselves, then to another person dear to us, then to a neutral person (a person we know, but who we don’t feel particular emotions about one way or the other), and finally, we direct metta to an “enemy”, a person who we have a difficult relationship with, a person we are finding it hard to forgive, a person who may even hate. And yes, we are all capable of that emotion. If you have been meditating for some time, you will be familiar with observing the emotions and thoughts that arise within you and allowing them to pass without judgement.
Metta practice does not come easy for me. I tried on my own and felt confused and not “loving” enough, particularly towards myself and also with my neutral person. And let’s just forget about the enemy for now! I couldn’t even face going there when I started. However, after having spoken with one of my sisters and reading Sharon Salzberg’s Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, I decided to try again. Through both of their suggested practices and my own journey with lovingkindness, these are some tips that may help you:
1. Start with yourself. Yes, I know it may come across as selfish when you first consider it, but without a strong foundation of self-love, how can we give to others? Perhaps this means that for a month or six months or a whole year, you only send metta to yourself. That’s fine, because you are healing a huge part of yourself right there! When you feel ready, you can move on.
2. Start small. A good way to incorporate metta is by adding 5 or 10 minutes of lovingkindness to your seated mediation or yoga practice time. No one needs to dictate for you how much time you are required to dedicate. Do what feels right for you.
3. Allow what comes up to come up. Today, as I practiced metta, I cried. Perhaps it is not in our nature or in our upbringing to feel that kind of love and as it happens, we feel overwhelmed. Witness it, accept it and give it the attention it needs.
4. Try on your own or ask for help. I started a seated meditation practice on my own, after practicing Hypnobirthing during my pregnancy. I downloaded a meditation timer app, read articles online, various books, experimented and asked questions to those more knowledgeable. However, there are many mediation centers and groups worldwide. This time around with my metta practice, I’m being guided by a mindfulness counsellor, who has helped me deepen my meditation practices and help me apply them more into daily life.
5. Don’t give up. Last summer when I tried metta and got stuck, I put it on hold, but now I’m dedicated to finding the peace and love that I, and all of us deserve, first and foremost from ourselves.
And with my heart full of metta:
May you be safe and free from danger.
May you be peaceful and free from mental suffering.
May you be healthy and free from physical suffering.
May you take care of yourself and live happily.
If you are looking for a way to start or deepen your daily meditation - take
look at this program by MindValley: bit.ly/YOGIMeditation and the Mindfulness Based Stressed Reduction online course by Sounds True: - The YOGI TIMES team