Metta, translated in the Buddhist tradition as "loving-kindness" can be an amazing tool for improving happiness and reducing stress. The power of loving-kindness has been a major theme in my life for the past week, so I thought I'd share about it here, and how you can use it. There's something lovely and healing about sending loving-kindness to others. It feels good. It gets us out of our own head, out of our own story, out of our little self and connected with our big Self. It gets us connected with the part of us that knows we are not alone. It gets us connected to the part of us that is pure love, and the more we practice, the easier those parts of us are to access in the future. Below are 5 ways practicing Metta can improve your life.
- As a morning meditation practice: Sit down, focus on your breath and get grounded into your body. Next, think of one person you love or the many people you love and send each one loving-kindness. Imagine sending them loving energy. Make wishes for them (e.g. may they be at peace. May they be free from suffering. May they feel loved). You can even picture this energy as a warm light, moving out towards them with every exhale. Allow the loving-kindness energy to start in your body and them move outward. At the end of your meditation I think you'll be surprised how good you feel.
- When you are angry or frustrated with someone: This can help to completely transform your energy. The next time you're frustrated with someone. Stop. Take a pause. Close your eyes, and send them loving-kindness. If someone was nasty to you, chances are they're miserable themselves. Wish for them to be free from suffering, or to find happiness. If this feels to difficult, start with someone you're only mildly frustrated with (see my story below for further details).
- When you are criticizing or negatively judging yourself: We, more than anyone, deserve our own loving-kindness. It's difficult to share loving-kindness with others, if we don't first feel it for ourselves. The next time you find yourself feeling like a failure, or feeling like an a-hole. Stop. Take a pause. Close your eyes, maybe place a hand on your heart, and send yourself loving-kindness. Remind yourself that you're doing your best, or endeavoring something difficult. Make some wishes for yourself with every exhale (e.g. May I forgive myself. May I be at peace. May I be free from suffering. May I feel loved.)
- During your yoga practice: I see so many frustrated faces in yoga class. Sometimes I'm that frustrated face. When you can't get fully into a posture and you're feeling frustrated with a specific body part. Stop. Take a pause, and send yourself some loving-kindness. Thank yourself for practicing yoga, for doing something good for yourself. If you're frustrated with a body part, instead of sending that body part resentment, send it loving-kindness. Seeing a trend here?
- When you are injured: When you're injured, I'll bet 9 times out of 10, your thoughts are that of resentment or self-pity. It's bad enough to be in physical pain or discomfort, let alone the emotional space of self-pity or resentment. Practicing loving-kindness towards the injured part of your body can help to shift your emotional relationship to your injury.
I've been trying to practice more loving-kindness lately. Yesterday, I was on my way home from work when the stoplight turned green and I was stuck waiting for pedestrians to cross the street before I could make a turn. Almost everyone had crossed except for one woman who was moving very slowly. I caught myself feeling annoyed, thinking to myself "Why can't she just move a little faster? Doesn't she know we're all waiting on her?". I stopped, paused, and instead practiced loving-kindness. I realized she was walking with a slight limp, probably moving as quickly as she could with her aged body. Instead of being annoyed, I wished for her to have some physical relief, for her body to move a bit better in the future, for her to feel peace, and to be free from suffering. The emotional and physical shift I felt in by body was palpable. Suddenly, instead of the negative emotions my original thought had produced, I arrived home feeling happy. I hope you give loving-kindness a try sometime this week, so you can experience how powerful it can be.