ringing in the new year with metta, a loving-kindness meditation!

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Recently I attended a Metta Meditation with Jill Satterfield,  founder of the School for Compassionate Action in New York City. As part of an all day workshop entitled,  Loving What Is,  she modeled how to develop a Metta Buddhist meditation- a loving-kindness meditation- which celebrates the happiness of all beings.

Weaving it into the asana practice we experienced how positive thinking and unconditional compassion for ourselves can lead naturally to unconditional compassion for others.  This creates the essential balance and attitudinal changes necessary to break down the barriers between ourselves and others.

Ms. Satterfield used a visualization technique, and a mantra or phrase, to help arouse feelings of loving acceptance of one self in order to systematically develop and send loving-kindness towards others.  We were encouraged to empathize with other people’s difficulties and to cultivate an appreciation of other people’s qualities or good fortune.

Can you list five things that bring you joy? Offer these appreciative and encouraging phrases and intentions to yourself and to others.

  • May I be happy, peaceful, and joyful
  • May I be healthy in body, mind and heart
  • May I be loved, and know that I am loved
  • May I love and accept others
  • May I feel compassion towards others and myself
  • May I be at ease, calm, content and celebrate the happiness of all beings
  • May you be happy, peaceful and joyful (repeat the above phrases beginning with, May you be…)
  • May all beings be happy, peaceful and joyful (repeat the above phrases beginning with, May all beings be…)

Start to note what arises as you continue with these phrases. After several repetitions begin to extend them towards  someone who inspired you, helped you in any way, a loved one, or a friend.  Next, extend them to a neutral person (someone you know but have no special feelings towards), to someone difficult (someone you are currently having difficulty with or feel hostile towards), and finally to all beings  everywhere

Keep  your mind fixed on any positive feelings that arise, and if it strays then bring it back to the mantra to strengthen the feeling again.

Be aware that at first it might feel mechanical to repeat the phrases but don’t give up.  Tune in to how you are feeling at the start of the practice and notice how the quality of your heart changes as you repeat the phrases to yourself and move through the poses.

Loving-kindness is a heart meditation which can be incorporated into your daily life- at home, at work, in the community, and into all your relationships.  Start with this short sequence and allow it to become your daily mantra as you move into the New Year.  Applying this practice to your life has the immediate benefit of increasing your joy, changing old negative patterns of the mind, and creating a feeling of openness toward everybody you relate to.

Like love, happiness increases exponentially when it is shared!

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