Metta Meditation: The Power To Transform
The practice of Maitri or Metta meditation aligns us with the inner power we need to transform ourselves. It is the realization and the offering of unconditional love to ourselves and to our world.
METTA = Love, compassion, active goodwill, loving-kindness.
As the first of the four Brahma Viharas (4 methods of meditation), in which the forces of love are radiated to all beings, Metta meditation is an expression of direct and unconditional loving kindness toward all.
It is easy to become hardened, emotionally numb by the difficulties we all face in life. It is easy to build emotional walls around ourselves in order to protect our hearts from the pain and sorrows, the suffering that is so prevalent in this world and so unique to each one of us.
It is easy to withdraw into our own cocoon and lull ourselves into a false sense of security. It’s just as easy to lash out and turn to aggression as a way to seek protection from the “slings and arrows” of outrageous fortune that eventually befall us all at some point and time in our lives.
The more we meditate, the more sensitive we become to our own imperfections and that is what gives us the impetus to transform ourselves.
The Buddha’s Experience
On the night the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and attained enlightenment, it is said that he was attacked by the wicked forces of Mara.
MARA = The Demon or spirit of negative desire.
The myth tells us that as the Buddha drew ever closer to his own enlightenment, Mara shot arrows of distraction at the Buddha in an effort to derail him from attaining enlightenment. While deep in meditation, the Buddha relied on his basic inner wisdom and awareness, recognized the true nature of those arrows of distraction and turned them into flowers.
Instead of being stumbled by the distractions, instead of withdrawing or becoming overwhelmed by the attack and retaliating negatively, the Buddha turned the negative forces arrayed against him into something positive and beautiful. His basic inner wisdom and awareness gave him access to the transformative power of Metta loving-kindness. The deeper the Buddha’s meditation, the more aware he was of the nature of the arrows, their source and significance. His meditation enabled him to awaken to the true nature of his own distractions; his own suffering.
For the Buddha, this insight into the nature of his own suffering also enabled him to realize his own inner wisdom and potential for compassion and love. He also recognized that this potential for self-realization existed in us all, that all human beings had the capacity to become Buddhas or awakened ones (We are All Buddhas). That we are all capable of realizing and expressing immeasurable loving kindness toward ourselves and our world.
Align with the Metta Within
To align with the Metta within is to align our consciousness with the very best part of ourselves. Like the Buddha, our loving kindness (Metta) enables us to be wiser rather than foolish.
Loving-kindness enables us to show grace under fire, rather than feel resentfulness or aggression. Loving-kindness enables us to open up to the world rather than close down in an attempt to run for cover, or shield ourselves from life.
Through the practice of meditation, we access our own basic inner wisdom and awareness, or what is commonly referred to as our “Buddha Nature” and by doing so we align our consciousness with the transformative power of “Metta” which exists naturally within each one of us. In other words, we are more able to connect with the very best parts of ourselves, this is what is meant by “turning arrows into flowers”.
I think my friend, brother and fellow teacher Kam Thye Chow expresses the Buddha’s experience with Metta quite profoundly in his book on Thai Yoga Massage.
“One of the most radical teachings of the Buddha concerns the spirit of Metta. That Metta is not only about being pleasant or doing selfless work. It is a deeper understanding of the interdependency of all beings toward a shared purpose: to reach a state of true happiness.
– Metta cannot be examined under a microscope. Yet it is the greatest motivating power and is found in every cell of our bodies and the universe.
– What does that mean for us? We align ourselves with the Metta within and we align ourselves with the universe.”
Metta, loving kindness, is inherently a part of our primordial selves, our DNA, our ground of being. The practice of Maitri or Metta loving-kindness is a powerful transformative meditation practice. It begins by taking the time to be aware of the compassion or tender-heartedness we already are able to express within and then we expand and develop those feelings.
Three Basic Steps
1. We may genuinely feel Metta in a sense of gratitude or appreciation for the joys and blessings we have in this life. We acknowledge those feelings of gratefulness in our meditation practice and than we amplify them.
2. We may genuinely have feelings of goodwill toward others in our lives. We recognize those earnest feelings and then we widen and extend them out to others.
3. In a very real and non-theoretical way, we seek out what Pema Chödrön describes as “our soft side”, which are our true feelings of love, tenderness and compassion (Metta) first for ourselves and the world around us and than we enlarge or intensify those feelings.
About the author: Donald Francis is a meditation teacher and freelance writer. Incorporates art, music, poetry and literature into his teaching and makes meditation interesting and relevant to everyone. He lives in London, England.