Metta Makes Everything* Better
At least, this is my experience having had an at least once a day (first thing in the morning) Metta meditation practice since March 2013 (sporadic for years before then).
What is Metta?
Metta is often translated as Loving Kindness and sometimes, as Friendliness. Coming from the Buddhist tradition, it has similarities with Ho’oponopono (scroll down for video) from the Hawaiian tradition, in terms of energy clearing for ourselves, our communities and the world.
With Metta, we’re putting our energy into wishing ourselves and others to be well. It can even help us build our capacity for Mudita (aka altruistic joy)
You can also read more about it in the book, 365 Ways to Feel Better: Self-care Ideas
How Metta makes things better
In the beautiful book Joy on Demand by Chade-Meng Tan, he talks about his background in engineering meaning he’s as interested in the benefits of small bursts of mindfulness meditation as in the longer term gains of experienced meditators.
I’m recommending it to people as I listen and with each chapter, get more excited about the elements I knew about from my own training and experience as well as new gems and affirmation.
One of the things that has really stood out for me is the importance of compassion and the benefits for vagal tone, blood pressure and relationships as well as mental health.
My personal morning practice
I wish happiness, good health, peace, ease, joy, courage, patience and more for myself, loved ones (including the MagnifiCat) everyone I’ll be working with that day, all my clients and supervisees, past present and future, groups of people I’m especially concerned about from reading the news or other sources, people I struggle with eg politicians or anyone who I’m finding challenging.
Trauma informed Metta can benefit everyone
When I teach the trauma informed version I work with to clients, in yoga classes, workshops and at other events I aim to remember the caveat that some days, wishing ourselves peace and ease can feel impossible. Other days (or the same days) it can feel impossible for others.
Everything is information.
Greeting this information with curiosity and compassion might mean going extra easy on yourself on such a day, giving so and so a wider berth.
This can be done, similarly to the practice I shared in the video above, anytime, anywhere.
Maybe you’ve got bad news? About yourself? A loved one? A situation?
Some days, we can send that Loving Kindness to people we find really challenging.
Other times, we know to not even attempt such an advanced practice (at that time) but to send extra Metta to the part of ourselves that is struggling or someone else you’re worried about.
Don’t worry, send Metta
Worrying about others doesn’t help them.
Not only does it not help them, it potentially disempowers them.
Energetically, it can even work as praying for something bad to happen.
This is much much easier said than done so be compassionate with yourself as you retrain yourself.
Instead of indulging in, ‘Oh, poor ______ They’ve had such a rough time… I don’t know how they go on…’ send them some Metta and spend even a minute imagining them happy, healthy, whole and well.
Metta helps me watch the news
I use Metta almost without having to remember to send Metta when watching the news. Feeling helpless about something going on in the world?
People losing their homes and lives to regime change?
Sending Metta helps me connect with that compassion without sinking into despair (which, as Chade-Meng Tan reminds us is so important for increasing joy).
Grounding, noticing my breath and sending all involved Metta helps me stay present enough to watch from a more resourceful place.
Moving from self loathing to genuinely wishing yourself well
Metta has literally – in my case – been life changing.
For many years (from childhood to mid twenties), self loathing was my default state. I laughed a lot, I had good times. AND there were many many many times where I wished I was dead.
At points (which felt like they went on for years but probably didn’t) in my teens and twenties, ‘I hate myself and want to die’ was on a loop in my head when not consciously thinking more beneficial thoughts. I even used to beat myself up over the thought not being particularly original.
I had had a lot of therapy and coaching and done a LOT of work on myself (as well as training and qualifying as a therapist and coach etc) when I learned how to do Metta. Even though I was in a much better place, I still OFTEN struggled when it came to wishing MYSELF happiness, health, peace and ease etc.
But I got enough from it to keep going and in time, the wish for these qualities and feelings became genuine. At some point, I began to believe I was worthy of happiness, health, peace, ease and joy etc. Of course there are days when I wobble but I have so much more energy now that so much of my time and energy isn’t going on actively trying to stay alive against the previously relentless seeming misery.
More Metta and BETTER Boundaries
Wishing others well doesn’t mean not setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. In my experience, sending Metta has HELPED me set stronger boundaries when needed.
It’s possible to give yourself whatever healthy distance you need for mental, physical, emotional and spiritual safety and to clear some of the energy around the situation and relationship by simply sending Metta.
Again, even if things are too raw to send it to the other person or people, sending compassion and love and friendliness to YOURSELF for having stayed as long as you did or whatever your part in it was is more therapeutic and gentle than endlessly beating yourself up over wouldas, couldas and shouldas.
What’s your favourite Metta or other compassion based practice?
What helps you make it a non-negotiable (with gentleness) part of your self care routines?
I hope this post helps you remember to do the things that help YOU. Please feel free to share it on your social media etc so others who may want feel better can read it.