Metta Meditation: Four Steps to Greater Happiness
Updated: Jan 12
Metta is a Pali word which means "loving kindness".
This Metta meditation, and the concept of Metta, is the namesake for Metta Pets. This is because our pets are often our most consistent teachers of happiness, compassion, joy, and peace. These are four states which bring us to an experience of optimal wellbeing.
Here at Metta Pets many of us, paradoxically, may be experiencing great emotional stress with the grief or fear of losing a beloved pet. Or we may be experiencing occupational emotional stress due to undeveloped compassion, which we experience as empathy, and the vicarious trauma which results from regularly interacting with others who are experiencing emotional trauma and talking to us about it.
Add to this the current social climate of stress, overwork, emotional exhaustion, sensory overstimulation, abundant focus on tragedy and conflict, rising chronic illness, perfectionism, criticism, anxiety, depression....you get the picture....and our resilience becomes severely challenged. Our wellness suffers if we don't make a deliberate effort to focus on meeting our emotional, physical and spiritual needs.
Self care becomes vitally important.
Metta Meditation can be an effective and powerful part of our self care routine.
This is why I want to share this practice with you.
I hope that you find more comfort, happiness and peace by exploring this method of meditation which has helped so many people create greater well-being in their lives.
WHY METTA MEDITATION?
As we learn to express kindness and compassion toward ourselves, through practices like Metta Meditation, our capacity to experience positive emotions increases. This improves our ability to navigate challenging situations with more peacefulness and balance.
When we are happier we are able to offer more to those we care about. We are able to be better pet parents, doctors, caregivers, spouses, siblings, friends, and community members.
In mindfully attending to our own well-being, we are better able to make a positive difference in the world.
WHAT IS METTA MEDITATION?
Metta Meditation has been the topic of much research and is often referred to as "Loving Kindness Meditation". Metta Meditation is considered by many to be one of the most transformative single meditation practices when done on a regular basis with proper instruction.
While Metta Meditation is often taught as a traditional Buddhist or Yogic practice used to cultivate altruistic feelings, the human states and emotions it works with - happiness, compassion, joy and peacefulness - are universal. Its effects transcend religion and spiritual beliefs. With consistency, repetition and gentle daily effort, this practice supports an increased sense of peace and well-being.
On the MettaPets website I have posted some audio recordings you can listen to for free, or download to listen anywhere. One is an introduction to Metta Meditation. The others are guided meditations.
The audio introduction to Metta Meditation describes the Four step of Metta Meditation: what they are, what they mean, and how they help us.
Research has shown that learning about metta meditation before doing it is statistically associated with an increased likelihood you will experience positive benefits. I recommend that you listen to this 12 minute introduction.
Or better yet, listen to my whole Metta Meditation workshop webinar here.
HOW TO DO METTA MEDITATION
In this practice, we recite specific phrases which carry good wishes while purposefully inviting positive feelings to arise and allowing ourselves to experience them.
Metta Meditation utilizes four concepts, or virtues, that increase our well-being. In this practice we are getting in touch with the qualities of equanimity, loving kindness, compassion and joy which support the capacity for basic (and extraordinary) human kindness.
The key to Metta Meditation, and what sets it apart from other mindfulness practices, is that here we are specifically working to allow the experience of the feelings of happiness, compassion, joyful well-being and peacefulness to arise in our bodies and in our mind.
HOW METTA MEDITATION WORKS
In brain research on Metta Meditation they have shown that the practice, when done properly in this way, activates the area of the brain which is the regulating center for cognitive control and emotional processing. This area is called the fronto-parietal cortex. Specifically, gamma brainwaves in this area increase. While there is still a lot to learn about the role of gamma brainwaves, they are thought to induce neuroplasticity. In other words, they are involved with helping the brain re-wire or reprogram it's old patterns into new ones.
So, quite literally, Metta Meditation seems to work by helping your brain learn how to think and feel differently. It helps your brain learn how to help you feel happier, more peaceful, and more compassionate...first toward yourself...then toward the people and events around you. Doesn't that sound nice?
FOUR STEPS TO GREATER HAPPINESS
Maitri: Loving Kindness
"May I be Happy"
"May I be Safe and Free of Suffering"
"May I be Well"
"May I be Peaceful"
HOW TO DO METTA MEDITATION CORRECTLY... SO IT WORKS FOR YOU
First of all, this practice is best done when you are in a relatively calm state. If you are in the throes of significant mental afflictions or severe emotional turmoil, this practice can feel traumatizing because it puts you in touch with your inner landscape and can intensify your experience of those emotions if you are not well-equipped to refocus your attention. In those circumstances, I would recommend working with the the mindfulness practices I describe in the first two "Mindfulness for Stress Reduction" webinars.
For detailed instruction on Metta Meditation and tips for navigating emotional bumps in the road, watch the Metta Meditation webinar.
Again, what sets Metta Meditation apart from other mindfulness and meditation practices is that we are specifically working to allow the experience of the feelings of happiness, compassion, joyful well-being and peacefulness to arise in our bodies and in our mind.
We are not just wishing these things with our minds or thinking about them as concepts with our thoughts, we are feeling them. We are allowing ourselves a few minutes to escape into a reality where we feel these states as if they are already present. We allow ourselves to let go of thoughts of the past or worries about the future and just be present with these feelings and enjoy the experience of them.
If you have trouble with this at first, I find it's helpful to ask yourself, "what does happiness feel like?" Then try to feel happy. Mirror the experience of "happy" in your body. What does happiness feel like in your mind? What does happiness feel like in your emotions? What does happiness feel like in your whole body?
Then relax, sit quietly with your back straight, and repeat to yourself over and over until you feel it: "May I be happy". As you wish happiness for yourself, you allow yourself to experiencing what happiness feels like.
Do the same with "safety", "joy" and "peaceful".
"May I be safe and free from suffering"
"May I be well (joyful)"
"May I be peaceful"
If it doesn't feel authentic, that's totally okay. Just fake it. Pretend, like you are an actor. You can think of it as if you are reminding yourself what these states feel like. Try to become the experience of the word or phrase. As you do this you are rewiring your brain and your emotional system.
This is a "fake it 'til you make it" practice :)
GUIDED MEDITATION AUDIOS TO SUPPORT YOUR WELL-BEING AND SELF-CARE
The first two are shorter 20 minute sessions. These are good for getting used to mete meditation and supporting a daily practice which will given you the results you want. These are also set to nice music from Source Vibrations to help your brain sync up to calmer brainwave states which support your well-being.
The last session is longer. This really allows you to get into a more complete state of relaxation by guiding you through a longer guided relaxation before starting the Metta Meditation. Getting relaxed not only feels nice (you could choose to just do this first part of the audio alone as a relaxation aid), it helps your brain settle down and get into calmer brainwave states like Alpha and Delta. These have very beneficial effects on your mental and emotional system and your ability to experience being calm in daily life. This longer meditation also offers a variety of phrases that relate to the four Metta Meditation concepts. This is a great place to start if you have some experience meditating and want support developing your practice or maintaining a longer meditation session.
METTA MEDITATION WORKSHOP FOR VETERINARIANS
I will be leading a full day on Wellness practices, including a workshop on Metta Meditation, at the Integrative Vets Australia (IVA) Weekend Wellness Retreat for Practitioners in Brisbane, Australia on Friday, May 15th, 2020.