Opening our hearts with loving-kindness practice

How about a little mid-week metta? Have you heard of the metta prayer, or loving kindness meditation? I first learned about this through a yoga practice, in which this practice was presented as a theme by my teacher Anna, and I loved it, and continue to use it for yoga practices I lead as well. The metta prayer is used commonly in the Buddhist tradition, but can be seen in many other spiritual traditions as well. The basic practice is to focus your mind on extending loving-kindness, wellness, and good intentions – first to oneself, and then extending that same energy out into the world. I like to start with myself, then focusing on someone near and dear to me, then to an acquaintance, then to someone I have struggled with, and then out to all beings. In this way, we open our hearts first to ourselves (which for some of us can be the most difficult), and then sequentially to all beings in the universe. By repeating the phrases over and over, extending the kindness and good intentions to ourselves and others, we cultivate feelings of friendliness, openness, and understanding. We begin to see that we all, even those who we have problems with in the past, are just beings with our own struggles and that we all desire to be happy, healthy, at peace, etc…

There are many different versions of the metta prayer, and you can build your own, depending on what specific qualities you are hoping to cultivate. That is actually where this pic came from. I was working on building my own metta, and these are the intentions that I came up with. Mine is long, as per my usual habit of being long-winded ;).

So I would begin my metta practice, saying:

May I be happy

May I be healthy

May I be free from both inner and outer dangers

May I be healed

May I be at peace

May I see clearly

May I awaken to the light of my own true being

May I be joyful

And I might repeat this several times for myself. Then, I turn my attention to a loved one:

May he be happy

May he be healthy

May he be free from both inner and outer dangers

May he be healed

May he be at peace

May he see clearly

May he awaken to the light of his own true being

May he be joyful

Again, repeating as many times as you like. And then moving the intention to others, and eventually to all beings. May all beings….

As I mentioned, this practice can be used as a part of a yoga asana practice, intermittently stopping the physical movements to return to the meditation. But it is also a wonderful stand-alone meditation, that will leave you feeling open-hearted and amazing.

If you like the idea of continuing a practice of loving-kindness, I recommend following Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock, who does a beautiful Monday Metta each week. I love seeing those come across my newsfeed every week, reminding me to stop and practice myself.

May we all be filled with loving kindness.

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