Metta (loving-kindness) Meditation: Cultivating Love as the Antidote For Fear and Hatred
Have you heard it said that all emotions boil down to just the two emotions of either love or fear and that these are the basis of all other emotions? What if we apply that to our current conditions and use love to conquer fear?
The prescription of the Buddha is that even in the darkest of places and times, our heart-mind has the capacity to be free from the burdens of hatred or fear. With COVID-19, elections, and racism, it may seem hard to imagine that we could soften our hearts and find love amidst all of the suffering we hear about on a daily basis.
Yet, that is just what metta/loving-kindness meditation focuses on achieving by developing feelings of goodwill, kindness, and warmth toward others (Loving-Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg).
I think of it as an equalizer and an antidote to aversion. It is a state that can be developed through practices that help us cultivate the unconditional, expansive qualities of the heart.
According to Psychology Today, Metta has tremendous benefits from greater well-being to providing relief from illness and improving emotional intelligence or the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.
Such people are especially tuned in to the emotions that others experience. It’s understandable that a sensitivity to emotional signals, both from within oneself and in our social environment, would make us more skillful as citizens, friends, parents, leaders, or romantic partners. The good news? These skills can be learned.
By using the ancient phrases in metta meditation, we cultivate freeing our heart and mind from the clutches of fear, hatred, and confusion, regardless of what is happening in the world around us. Focusing on compassion means that meditation consists of the wish to relieve a being from suffering, whereas focusing on loving-kindness means wishing another being happiness.
May I be safe
May I be healthy
May I be happy
May I be at ease
May I be filled with loving-kindness
May I be peaceful
The practice gradually increases in difficulty with respect to the targets that receive the practitioner’s compassion or loving-kindness. At first, the practitioner is targeting oneself, then loved ones, neutral ones, difficult ones, and finally all beings.
Regardless of what is happening in the world around us, metta is a way to love all beings and to offer that love to ourselves too. If we must love ourselves before we can love others, metta is an effective way for people to create peace in their hearts, in their homes, and in the world.