What is Monday Metta?
This is Monday Mettā, a newsletter about Love, meditation, intuition, tarot, and yoga.
The Pali word Mettā (in Sanskrit, Maitrī), means “loving friendliness” (a term made popular by Bhante Gunaratana) or “loving kindness.”
Mettā is one of the four sublime states defined by the Buddha. The other three are compassion (Sanskrit: karunā), appreciative joy, and equanimity. In Buddhism, all four states develop together.
Mettā is both very simple to begin practicing and at the same time, can be a complex mind-bend. Let’s start simply:
Loving-friendliness is innate. Think about a time when you’ve seen something that truly makes you smile, without even thinking about it. A pet, perhaps. Or maybe you’re a person who sees a new life, a little human, and feels all squishy inside. Or that feeling you get when you see a friend you haven’t hugged in a bit, and you squeeze them with love. This is loving-friendliness. It’s a warmth, a buildup of bubbly love.
Unfortunately, many of us have become blocked to this feeling. We hold off or hold back, preferring instead to feel more habitual feelings, like worry, anger, resentment, or disregard. Maybe not directed towards Biscuits, or a tiny, new baby. Instead directed towards long-held relationships. Directed towards people we don’t know. Directed towards people we interact with briefly.
In my training, I have come across many stories of disregard, anger, hate. I have contemplated this in my own life and have found that I have habitually given in to these qualities. I see those I love doing the same. Technology at our fingertips has also enabled us to shut off or shut down socially, allowing us to deny loving-friendly interactions with those around us.
Practicing mettā helps us to break down those habits. Practicing mettā allows us to banish our outward and inward hatred and neglect. It helps us to find genuine love, kindness, friendliness for ourselves and others. Wouldn’t it be something if with every interaction we looked at one another in the eye and actually sent a tiny, energetic beam of love?
When I began mettā meditations, it wasn’t easy (it still isn’t, sometimes!). Cultivating loving-friendliness in myself, after many decades of self-degradation and abuse, felt impossible. So I tried just to focus on others, people I really loved. And then, they’d disappoint me, or do something I didn’t agree with, and my habit of anger and resentment overpowered any loving-kindness I was attempting. My mettā practice seemed futile. I gave up many times.
But loving-kindness isn’t effective if we only do it when we’re feeling harmonious with the entire giant universe. Loving-kindness is an effective practice because we do it when we’re feeling out of sorts. When we’re tired, run-down, stressed, depressed, angry. If you wait for the stars to align to give yourself or someone else a kind word, you’ll be waiting forevs.
Here is a mettā meditation I came up with, that I say to myself each morning as I meditate. Please take it for yourself. Say it in the car on the way to work or as you wake up in the morning. Say it before you go to bed, or in the shower. You don’t need to set aside special time to sit (although you can!). Make it a daily practice. And turn it towards others.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I exist with ease.
For further reading:
Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Guanaratana
Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers
Buddhism by Huston Smith and Philip Novak