Metta Bhavana comes from the Pali language. Metta means love, kindness or friendliness. Bhavana means to cultivate. So, the practice is to cultivate loving kindness. Beginners may find this meditation easier than Just Sitting or Mindfulness of Breath, because there is more for the mind to focus on.
This meditation is a fantastic tool for strengthening the heart chakra. Cultivating a regular Metta Bhavana practice is helpful if you are healing a broken heart or struggling with any type of grief or loss.
Metta Bhavana is also a brilliant way to help others and even the planet by sending out loving kindness on a regular basis. Everything is energy and if you are continually generating high vibration energy and directing it towards yourself and other people, this will make a positive impact. This is known as the ripple effect, and it is very powerful.
Cultivating Metta Bhavana helps you to give and receive love. When you have an open and clear heart chakra, you are able to draw on your infinite reserves of love and share it with others. When you have cleared energetic blockages from your heart chakra you are able to receive love openly, something that doesn’t come easily to a lot of people.
What Happens in a Metta Bhavana Meditation?
The Metta Bhavana is made up of five stages, lasting a minimum of five minutes each. In each stage, you visualise a specific person and send them Metta. The first stage involves sending Metta to yourself. The second stage is where you send Metta to a friend. In the third stage, you send Metta to a neutral person. In the fourth stage, you send Metta to someone you have been having some difficulties with recently. In the fifth and final stage, you send Metta to all four people, then expand it outwards to encompass your locality, country, and globally.
How to Practice Metta Bhavana
For the guided meditation, go to Insight Timer. Or follow the instructions below:
Set a timer for the amount of time you would like to meditate for. This meditation is in five stages so you will need to set 5 bells dividing your time equally. Five sections of 3-5 minutes each is great for a beginner. Before you start the timer, choose the people you will be meditating on. Your friend, someone you don’t know, and someone you are having difficulties with.
Make yourself comfortable, close your eyes, and relax your body. Bring your attention to your breath.
Begin the meditation by sending yourself loving thoughts and positive energy. For many people, this is actually the most challenging stage as we have been conditioned, especially in British society, to not think that highly of ourselves. This is a real shame, and something we need to change for the next generations. Yes, it is okay to love yourself. It is crucial, in fact!
You can visualise yourself or just become aware of your body and heart space. Feel living, positive emotion radiating from your heart and flooding your entire body. If you prefer, you can repeat a phrase, such as, ‘may I be well, may I be happy, may I be at peace’. Whenever I do this meditation, I am at my happy place – a secluded beach in Barbados my husband and I visited on our honeymoon. I picture myself standing in front of me, as my higher self, and I give myself a big hug, allowing the Metta to flow.
The next stage is bringing to mind a friend—someone you have a good relationship with. This comes easy for most people as we can all think of at least one person, be it a friend or a family member, with whom we would like to share our love. Send them well wishes and positive vibes.
Again, either visualise them in front of you or just get a sense of them. Feel that loving emotion you just cultivated for yourself and direct it towards your friend. I see my friend sitting in front of me, and a beam of loving kindness energy coming out from my heart into theirs. You can repeat: ‘may you be well, may you be happy, may you be at peace’.
Then you visualise someone you don’t know. This is a neutral person. Someone you do not have a strong feeling for either way. That could be someone who served you in a shop that day or your waiter at a café or restaurant. It can be anyone who you have no relationship with. You send that neutral person love and positive vibes, wishing them to be well and happy.
You then bring to mind someone you are having difficulties with. This may feel hard to begin with, especially if it’s someone you have a very frayed relationship with, or you feel hurt by them or very angry with them. If that is the case, and you are new to the practice, I would recommend choosing someone with whom your difficulties are not so severe.
You can work your way up to these more emotionally charged relationships as you get better at detaching from it. Visualise this person standing in front of you and send them love and positive energy. It may feel like the opposite to what you really want to send them, but trust me, this will benefit you way more than allowing ill feeling to manifest.
Lastly, you are going to take all that loving kindness and direct it to all four of you at the same time. Then, gradually emanate it outward to encompass the entire world. In my version, I see it as brilliant sparkling light emanating from my being. I visualise it coming out from my heart space, and then I zoom out so I can see the area from above.
I see the energy reaching out of the beach area, through the local neighbourhood, the city, the country, until I am viewing planet Earth as if from space. I can see my sparkling loving energy encompassing the entire globe, and every living being that calls it home. I imagine the planet surrounded by a field of loving kindness energy, healing and charging it.
When the timer goes off, I reverse that visualisation, bringing the energetic field of love and positivity back into my heart. I give thanks to the people who were part of my meditation and come back into myself with some deep breaths before opening my eyes.
I hope you have enjoyed this overview of the Metta Bhavana loving kindness meditation. As you can see, this practice is extremely flexible; you can personalise it and make it feel special to you. Drop me a comment if you try it out, and feel free to ask any questions.