Have you tried metta (loving kindness), but it made you feel awkward or phony? You said the phrases but they did not resonate with you. This post is about how to craft your metta meditation phrases so they resonate with you.
At the end of the post, I give a useful procedure on how you can make up your own phrases. Be sure to check it out.
What is metta or loving kindness meditation?
In its core essence, metta is the aspiration directed out for the well-being of whomever we are directing it to.
The meditation consists in repeating a few phrases to ourselves, over and over. And just letting them act on us. If you want to try out such a meditation, just follow along with the video hereunder by Tara Brach, a well know psychologist and meditation teacher.
This repetition tends to soften our hearts and make us more open to other people, but also to ourselves.
There not much more to the practice thatn that. Of course, since it is a meditation practice, the aim is to keep the mind focused. So whenever you stray away from the sentences, gently bring your mind back to the practice.
Why would you even bother trying metta?
There are many great reasons for you to try metta. As I discuss in my post on the benefits of metta meditation, scientific research has shown that loving kindness practice enhances our well being.
In general, it makes us more happy, and the body follows along by reduced pain and inflammation. Some research even shows that metta can increase telomere length, which is associated with increased longevity!
There is more
But I’d like to write about another benefit here.
If you are reading this, it probably means you are interested in meditation. And we all know meditation can be difficult sometimes.
The practices does not go as it should (or as you think it should go) and you read about the 9 attitudes of mindfulness according to Jon Kabat-Zinn but the acceptance part is not going as you would like it to go.
Metta meditation to the rescue!
Very often, a lack of self love is at the basis of many problems in our lives. Go to any psychologist and he will tell you.
And with a lack of self love often comes an incapacity to accept oneself or life as it unfolds.
This means that a prerequisite for acceptance is self-love. The first thing we need to accept is our own. Our own inadequacies and shortcomings. But also our successes and greatness. Both can be problematic at times.
Metta meditation is made just for this purpose. To love ourselves unconditionally. Not in a stupid way where we put up with others or our own bullying. No, in a respectful manner that can set healthy boundaries.
This is the aspiration of metta.
So, if you are stuck in meditation, make sure to regularly incorporate metta practices.
Traditional metta phrases
These are the phrases that are most often used in loving kindness practice:
- ‘May I be healthy’
- ‘May I be Safe’
- ‘May I be at ease and happy’
The whole practice is to repeat these phrases to your self without expecting anything. Just repeat them to yourself.
Why traditional metta phrases might not be the best option
First, I found that many people have a lot of trouble just repeating these phrases to themselves. In general, they tend to find it weird.
Furthermore, they are have a lot of resistance in wishing themselves or others well. They are blocked. So they do halfheartedly do the practice to never return again.
That is a pity, as they are missing out on all the benefits of this practice.
Tailored metta meditation phrases
When we craft our own phrases and tailor them to whatever we feel at that moment, we can greatly enhance the probability that meditation has effect.
Let’s consider a few cases.
The phrases feel phone or old-fashioned to me
That’s an easy one to solve!
Just change the phrases to something you like more:
- I wish myself happiness
- I allow myself to feel safe
- I am worthy of health
- I like joy
Do not be afraid to experiment with it until they are just right for you. And they do not have to stay the same. Go with the flow and improvise.
Just try to make sure that it has a positive ring to it and that the scope is not too small. So, don’t go for ‘I wish myself a new car’. Go for more long lasting things like happiness or peace. But that is the only caveat.
I feel weird repeating these phrases to myself
Here, the trick is to use mindfulness and reflection. Let’s see how this might work out.
So, first you say ‘May I be happy’, and it feels weird.
Before you go on to the next phrase, bring your awareness to the feeling. Were does do you feel it? Does it change? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? Look at it very carefully. That in itself might be sufficient to dissolve the weirdness. If that is the case, you can cay on to the next one.
If not, ask yourself the question why you feel it is strange. Do not try to answer it right away. Just be on the lookout for the answer.
You can also ask yourself if it is illogical to wish to be well or happy or healed. The answer is probably no. So why not wish it for ourselves. Knowing that this practice will enhance our well-being. and that it will move us in the direction of greater happiness.
I am not worthy of happiness.
Here, there are two possible strategies that I would recommend.
First, you might want to consider whether one of your good friends would agree with your statement. Does she or he really think that you are undeserving of happiness? That you should not feel great and healthy?
That is very unlikely. and if she or he thinks that, it is not a very good friend.
You you can change the phrases like this:
- … wishes me happiness
- … thinks I am worthy
- … believes I am deserving of health
Fill in the … with the name of your friend.
Make your mind habituated to these phrases and then ask yourself the following question. If my friend thinks this, why couldn’t it be just true? As with anything in meditation, do not try to answer the question yourself. Let the answer come up. It might surprise you.
Start by wishing the world well and then notice that you are part of the world.
See for yourself if you can wish well to the world. Do not make it too specific so it is easy to do. Say something like:
- I wish the world to be healthy
- May all being be well
- May the world find happiness
Once you say that phrase, pause for a little while and reflect that indeed you want the world to be happy. And that you are a little part of the world. So at least, you should be a little happy.
Try to familiarize yourself with this practice and take little baby steps. Do not overdo it. Do not try to do more than a couple of rounds of these phrases when you start out. Slow and easy
I have given a couple of strategies to craft your own metta meditation phrases.
The most important thing to remember is to not hold on rigidly to the wordings but to stay faithful to the genuine wish for happiness for yourself and for others, to the best of your abilities.
Do not push yourself, but don’t miss out on the many benefits by not doing this practice, even for as little as 1 minute a day.
Featured image by Waldemar Jan
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