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Metta bhavana, or loving-kindness meditation, is one of the two simplest meditations in Buddhism. It helps develop positive feelings towards all other living creatures.
Step 1: Sit comfortably
Find a position in which you can sit comfortably for the meditation. You can kneel using a meditation bench, sit cross-legged on the floor, or sit upright on a chair.
Use a cushion to support your back if necessary, and wrap yourself in a blanket if you’d like extra warmth.
Step 2: Decide length of phases
Decide how long each of the five phases of the meditation will be. Five minutes is a good length of time for beginners.
Step 3: Set timer or select music
Set the timer or select a track on your music player that corresponds to the length of time you have chosen for the first phase.
Step 4: Bring awareness into the present
To prepare yourself for the meditation, bring your awareness into the present.
For a few seconds, focus your gaze on something pleasant, like a plant, statue of the Buddha, or pretty vase, to ground yourself in the present.
Step 5: Close your eyes & become aware of body
Close your eyes and scan your body to become fully aware of it. Begin with your toes and move slowly along your feet and up your legs, back, and pelvis, through your hands and arms, and finally up to your neck and head.
Step 6: Reflect on what you want to achieve
Reflect on what you want to achieve from this meditation. Maybe you want to reconcile yourself with a particular person. Then commit yourself to practicing conscientiously.
Step 7: Cultivate feeling of loving kindness
Keeping your eyes gently closed throughout the practice, begin to cultivate the feeling of loving kindness. There are many ways to do this. You might recall previous times when the feeling arose, repeat a phrase that expresses loving kindness (like 'may I, you, or they be happy'), or imagine someone else communicating loving kindness to you.
Step 8: Cultivate loving kindness towards yourself
For the first phase of meditation, cultivate loving kindness towards yourself. The way we feel about ourselves affects the way we treat others.
Step 9: Imagine someone who loves you
Many people find it difficult to feel loving kindness towards themselves. Try imagining someone who loves you expressing their love, and be completely open to this love.
Step 10: Cultivate loving kindness toward ...
For the second phase, cultivate loving kindness towards someone for whom you already have positive feelings—a social acquaintance, an admired colleague, a respected teacher, or a close friend. Reflect on that person’s good qualities, or visualize him or her radiating joy.
Especially at first, it can be best to focus on someone who is just a friend, rather than a parent, child, or partner, because family relationships and sexual attraction can complicate your feelings.
Step 11: Cultivate loving kindness toward ...
For the third phase, cultivate loving kindness towards a neutral person who triggers neither like nor dislike. This should be somebody you know or see regularly, for example a neighbor you nod hello to but about whom you have no feelings one way or the other.
Step 12: Cultivate loving kindness toward ...
For the fourth phase, cultivate loving kindness toward a hostile person, someone with whom you currently have difficulties. Many people find that when they practice metta bhavana for a hostile person, they find their relationship with that person improved.
Step 13: Cultivate loving kindness toward ...
For the fifth phase, cultivate loving kindness toward yourself, your friend, and your enemy at the same time.
Step 14: Extend loving kindness to all living things
Extend your loving kindness outward until it reaches all living things. To do this, think of people in different locations across the globe going about their lives in various ways.
Step 15: Reflect on experience
When you have completed the fifth phase, sit quietly for a few seconds and reflect on your experience of meditation.
Step 16: Return gently to your life
Return gently to your life in the outside world. Remember that loving kindness is not only practiced in meditation but also in life.
Did You Know?
Metta, or loving kindness, is one of the four brahma-viharas, or sublime states of mind.