But that’s not the case.
There are several other types of meditation that are lesser-known, but quite worthwhile. These include mantra meditation, concentration meditation, and the topic of this article: loving-kindness meditation, also known as Metta Meditation.
Loving kindness meditation is quite different than mindfulness meditation. It is fulfilling, profound, and meaningful. It’s also pretty easy to do compared to mindfulness meditation, and provides instant benefits.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving Kindness Meditation essentially involves filling yourself with love and kindness by focusing first on yourself, your body and your faculties. Feel joy and love for yourself. It is very hard to feel love for others if you don’t provide space to love yourself.
Then you turn your feelings toward a close loved one. While holding that love in your heart, you gradually move your attention outwards, to people you are less and less close to. You’ll conclude by pushing the same sense of love and joy you have for yourself and your close loved ones in the direction of people you have never met.
The end result is a positive, stress-free, joyful meditation session that works very well to increase contentment and reduce negativity.
How to Practice Metta Meditation
Let’s go over the basics of Metta meditation.
- Get into a comfortable position for meditation. Typically this involves sitting upright with your back relatively straight. You want to be comfortable but engaged enough that you won’t fall asleep. Take a few deep breaths to get quiet and contemplative.
- Close your eyes and direct your focus inward. Consider your body, mind, and soul. Feel gratitude for your being. For all of the parts that are working well, and even for those parts that might not work so well. Fill yourself with love and joy for yourself, and open a door to deep happiness and fulfillment.
- Move your focus outward to someone you love very much. A child, a parent, a partner, a very close friend. Feel yourself hugging them, filling yourself with love and gratitude for this person. You can think about a specific time that brought you overwhelming joy and love, or just embrace the ebullient nature of their being. Often you’ll feel your belly warm and tingle, overflowing with positive energy.
- Bathe in this feeling for a time, letting the love fill you up as much as possible with joy and positive vibes.
- When you feel it is time, move your attention to another person, perhaps a little bit more distant. A distant relative, a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Direct all that love and kindness towards this more distant person, giving them the same attention as your closest loved one. Keep them in your heart for a time, with all of the kindness in your being directed at them.
- After a time, move onto a more distant person. Perhaps the barista at your local cafe, or your mail carrier. Someone you know, but not well. Bring all of your love and joy to them, and push positive vibes to them. Keep that same powerful joy in your heart, but direct it to this person you know only a little bit.
- Move onto focusing on someone you have never met. It can be someone you’re aware of that you don’t actually know, or it could just be a general focus on all of humanity. Hold the love and kindness in your heart, and direct your focus to this person. Feel your overflowing kindness and joy for this person you have never met and never interacted with, the same love you felt from those who are closest to you.
Loving Kindness meditation is a simple process, and it’s generally an easier task than mindfulness meditation. You’re not beating yourself up for losing the breath, getting constantly distracted, etc. You’re also not wondering: why did I do this again? Is there really a point to all of this focusing on the breath? When do I feel the benefits of this?
When you complete a Metta meditation, typically you will feel a sense of peace, contentment, and pleasure at your time spent bathing in positivity. In our culture of cynicism, negativity, and distrust, we don’t spend too much time focusing on happiness and kindness to ourselves and others, even those we have not met. Even those we may dislike if we did meet them!
A typical Metta meditation session can be as short as 5-10 minutes. But longer lengths of meditation involve more time wading through positive energy and euphoric bliss, which can strongly change your general outlook and affect. Mind-wandering and distraction will still occur with loving-kindness meditation, but it tends to be less immediate than mindfulness meditation. If you lose the sensation of love and fulfillment, simply bring your attention back to your own body, or that of your closest loved one, and continue from there.
Why Loving Kindness Meditation?
Loving kindness meditation isn’t about actually making your loved ones feel your positive vibes. There’s no magic here. Rather it’s about orienting your emotional landscape in a positive direction. The goal is to bring love and kindness to the forefront of your interactions with all people, whether they are your closest loved-one or someone you have never met.
This includes yourself, too!
By continually practicing Metta meditation, you will become a happier, sunnier, more joyful person.
Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos has used loving kindness meditation as one of the pillars of her course The Science of Happiness. This course is well-known to be the most popular course in Yale’s history, and its wider publication (available for free through that link) has taken the world by storm. Prof. Santos attempts to teach people how to be happy, and loving kindness is a big part of that.
While Metta meditation is much less well known than other types of meditation like mindfulness meditation, it is increasing in popularity. There are many guided loving-kindness meditations on meditation apps, youtube, and the like.
Even if you’re a regular practitioner of mindfulness, concentration, or other types of meditation, adding loving-kindness to your mix will bring strong rewards. Metta is often much more enjoyable than other types of meditation, produces a very different set of experiences, and helps bring happiness.
To learn more about Metta meditation, as well as other wellness topics, visit RootsofBeing.