This past Friday I led a group of meditators in a guided metta meditation.
Metta is a Pali word which is often translated as “loving-kindness” although in practice it plays out even more broadly, as goodwill, as respect, as the wish to benefit. Good-heartedness.
It’s been a long while since I guided this practice.
If you haven’t done this one, you can:
a) read about it on Wikipedia
b) follow along on You Tube
c) really learn all about it on Access to Insight
d) check out the abbreviated, adapted version below.
(each step is at least 2-3 minutes long)
1) Start with focus on the breath. Breath for a while.
2) Focus on heart chakra. Breath through heart chakra for a while.
3) Imagine a puppy or kitten. Extend metta to the puppy or kitten.
4) Imagine yourself. Extend metta to yourself. (metta is not a non-dual practice))
5) Imagine a benefactor (friend, parent, etc.) Extend metta to them.
6) Imagine a neutral person (janitor, clerk in a store, a real person) Extend metta to them.
7) Imagine an adversary. ( a competitor, a critic, a ex) Extend metta to them.
(If you cannot extend metta to an adversary, return to an earlier step and continue)
8 ) Extend metta to everyone in this meditation room.
9) Extend metta to everyone in this city.
10) Extend metta to everyone in this region.
11) Extend metta to everyone in this country.
12) Extend metta to everyone in this world.
13) Extend metta to everyone in this universe, and even beyond…
By this step, the combined force of the 15 meditators was creating dynamic waves of energy, about one cycle per second, which swept over me delightfully.
14) Gently bring attention back into the room.
When you are ready, look around.
All these people have extended metta to you, and you to them.
Now, it was time for the Dharma talk.
There are lots of cool topics related to loving-kindness, lots of directions to go.
But, the cool things I had found were a little removed from everyday life.
Something more immediate and closer to experience waited for expression.
So I did what I have never heard any teacher or instructor do.
I admitted that I knew no more about this subject than anyone else present,
and then invited people to share stories of metta in their lives.
And people shared.
This was way better than any talk I could have given.
I felt truly touched by how down-to-earth the sharing was.
I encountered wonderful examples of every person who rose to challenging situations through loving-kindness.
I was deeply impressed with the universality of metta, the qualities and activities which have allowed this life and all the lives of people everywhere to exist at all.
I saw and heard the truth of our nature,
the truth of life, from everyone in the room.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded…
excerpt from the Karaniya Metta Sutta