Meditation practice was created thousands of years ago to help train our awareness to be steady, inclusive and accessible. If lucky, our awareness cuts through habitual patterns of confusion, pain or suffering and leads to Nirvana, the state/way of serenity. So if you have ever tried to follow the instructions of sitting and letting your mind rest on the breath, it can seem an absurd and insurmountable task at times. Instead of a calm buddha mind, we encounter a mind jumping around like a monkey on cocaine. Our attention barely notices the breath. Or our mind wonders to daily concerns, compulsions and anxieties. Or our mind loses its tone and wonders into absurd fantasies. Good news, this is normal. Until we train the mind to notice the present moment, it will have strong unconscious habits of wondering. So practices with an anchor were created so the mind could see, acknowledge and work with these meanderings.
To calm this restless monkey mind, meditation with phrases was created. In Vipassana meditation, the Brahma Viharas (immeasurable abodes of emotional intelligence) meditations are these practices. They help us cultivate a positive inner dialogue with ourselves so we can relate to our mind movements with patience, kindness and skill. Metta practice (lovingkindness practice) is the first practiced. This method develops a mind friendly to its wonderings. As our attention becomes acquainted to the discursive mind, our lovingkindness inner observer leands in and unpacks our conditioning with curiosity and compassion. The metta phrases anchor the mind so it does not drift off aimlessly like an unanchored boat caught in a storm out at sea.
To practice loving-kindness meditation, sit in a comfortable and relaxed manner. if sitting does not feel comfortable, you can laydown on your back. Take four to six deep breaths. Be attentive to letting the exhalations be slow, long and complete. Let the exhalations lead your awareness to your body sensations. Feel the sensations of your body as it sits, rests and lets go of tension. As your body comes into deeper awareness, let go of any concerns or preoccupations. Consistently return to the present moment through the experience of the breath and the sensations in your body.
When you feel you have a genuine connection in your body, then move to using the metta phrases.
Metta is first practiced toward oneself, since we often have difficulty loving others the most. As we learn and embody metta towards ourselves, we then practice extending metta to others. (I will add a metta blog on metta to others in 2019.) Sitting quietly, slowly and steadily repeat the following phrases. You may repeat them out loud or silently internally.
May I be happy.
May I be free from danger.
May I have mental ease.
May I have physical ease.
May I be at peace.
Repeat the phrases several times over 5 – 10 minutes.
If you find these phrases do not feel authentic, change them to support you.
Other phrases you could use are:
May I be relaxed.
May I be healthy.
May I have a calm mind.
May I be at peace with myself.
May I have a strong heart.
May I continue growing and learning.
May I be kindness.
May I be loved.
After repeating the phrases, let them drift away naturally. Return to meditating on the breath. Notice the changes in your attention. Notice the deeper connection to sensations in your body. Notice what is now within your awareness. Notice how living in your body is easier or different. Notice embodying the present moment is more available.
Metta meditation supports our minds to be more steady and focused. As we become an ally to our inner states, we are able to recognize them as messengers of insight.