Yesterday I posted the Metta Sutta. Today I’m going to talk a bit about it.
‘Metta’ can simply be translated as ‘love’. It’s not the kind of love you find in Hollywood teen movies. It’s the kind of love you find in the Metta Sutta. A wish for all beings, of all sizes, in all places, even those that haven’t been born yet, to be well and happy. A general positive regard. Sometimes it’s translated as ‘loving-kindness’.
As some of you may know, there’s a meditation practice called the ‘metta bhavana’ – the cultivation of loving-kindness.
The Metta Sutta is a good introduction to what this practice is all about.
In a way, the Sutta is a guided meditation. By following it (at least from when it gets going) you have a visualisation practice for developing metta.
The thing not mentioned specifically in the Sutta though, is to start with yourself.
Sure if you’re already brimming with positive self regard you can dive right into loving all beings. But growing up in the west, quite often that’s not where we’re starting from.
‘All beings’ includes you. If you happen to be you, that means you have to cultivate loving-kindness towards yourself.
It’s OK to rock
Some people feel bad doing this. They feel selfish. It just doesn’t feel right. Especially when there are starving children in Africa who need it much more than us.
But one thing I’ve noticed is we tend to treat others the way we treat ourselves. If we’re stingy with our affection towards ourselves, we’re probably like that with others. If we feel self-hatred, we feel hatred. And that hatred probably doesn’t limit itself to just self. It probably leeks out to others too.
So go nuts. Love yourself!
How to do the meditation
You can start by sitting in meditation and wishing yourself well.
May I be well. May I be happy. May I have all that I need.
We have to do this while getting in touch with our hearts and staying in touch. We have to listen, give space, and trust that the love will grow if we focus on it.
One way to kick-start this positive feeling can be to think about all the things we have that we’re grateful for. The attitude of gratitude and the attitude of love aren’t too far away from each other.
Other beings rock too
After you’ve got something good going – this usually takes somewhere between 5 minutes and 2 years 😉 – we can move on to the next stage.
This is what I like to call the ‘not me’ stage.
There are different ways to do the meditation. Some people break the practice down into stages: me, a friend, a ‘neutral’ person I know but don’t have feelings for one way or another, an enemy (if you can’t think of anyone you don’t like, what about the guy who cut you up in rush hour last week?), and then finally expanding out to all beings.
But for me, I like the Metta Sutta. I just go from me to feeling that love spread out above me, below me, and in all directions.
I think of young people and old people. Large animals, small animals. Beings in all realms (‘seen and unseen’). Aliens. Whatever. The whole universe, past, present, future.
And then I sit in that. And it feels great.