Metta meditation is the same as maitrī meditation.
Metta is a Pali word and Maitrī is the same word in Sanskrite; it means ‘loving kindness’. It is the first of the four qualities of the heart, the Brahma Vihara.
Maitrī can be experienced as a lightness that eventually accompany all your thoughts and actions and manner of speaking. The cultivated form of maitrī is devotion, love without attachment. Conditional love is the false friend: it can look like loving kindness but in essence it is completely different. The opposite is always clear, here it is likes/dislikes, irritation, angriness, (self)judgement and hate.
How do you start with metta / maitri meditation?
Metta/ Maitrī is the base for compassion (the second brahma vihara) and you first cultivate loving kindness towards yourself. This means to unconditionally support yourself. Developing an unconditional friendship to yourself. Like a parent sometimes can unconditionally love its child; no matter what, you stay loving and kind to you.
So, you also support yourself like a friend if you cannot fulfil your expectations you placed upon you. Next to this, you also let dissolve your self- judgements that you have or that pop up from your actions. Because which loving friend continually judges his friend? It is about letting yourself be at home in yourself, in your body and on this earth. To send yourself a feeling of wellbeing, in good and in bad times.
step 1: consciousness of your expectations
To know your expectations, which are at the base of self-judgements, do this simple writing exercise in a meditative state-of-being. Do not think or analyse, just write what comes first into your mind. It does not need to be logical, grammatical correct etc., just let the writing go automatically. Best is to take a real pen and paper.
Finish the next sentence multiple times:
1a. I have to …. (because else…)
You repeat finishing this sentence until there comes nothing new on paper. It often happens that you repeat sentences a few times and then still something else pops up, so do not stop too soon.
If there is really nothing new anymore, then finish the next sentence multiple times:
1b.I am not allowed …. (or else …)
This one you also repeat until you feel really nothing new can come out of it.
When this is done (did you do it already? If not; now is the time; go back to the exercise above!)now focus on the feeling of loving kindness. The loving kindness that is unconditional and so much stronger than the expectations of yourself you might have. While you keep focusing on this strong loving friendship, re-read the sentences you wrote, and let this loving friendship be stronger and stronger. Much stronger than your expectations.
step 2: Letting go of self-judgement
Now you can strengthen this by feeling at every expectation you had written down that you support yourself with loving kindness, no matter what (you do or you are). You might even want to say: ‘I support myself with loving kindness, even if I do/ do not … ‘
On the … , for all sentences at 1a. you fill in that you do not do what you should. For example if the sentence was: ‘I always have to spend my time useful, otherwise I am worthless’, then the sentence is ‘I support myself with loving kindness, also if I do not spend my time useful’.
At the sentences you wrote down at 1b. the … indicate you doing something you should not. For example if the sentence was ‘I am not allowed to be angry’, then it is ‘I support myself with loving kindness, also if I am angry’.
This results in loving kindness that includes the aspect of being unconditional and this is a big step in feeling home in yourself.
Stap 3: metta/ maitri to yourself in good and in bad times
Now then, the big challenge is of course to practice loving kindness not only in a writing exercise, but also in daily life. So, in all situations in which you do well, embrace yourself with loving kindness and also when you fail, embrace yourself with loving kindness. This way, you take care of yourself, independent of the circumstances. You do not attack yourself anymore in your mind, but just embrace and hold yourself with loving kindness.
You can choose a few moments every day to consciously do this, for example when you brush your teeth, just before you eat, when you go to the toilet, when you get into your car or on your bike, when you walk towards the printer or when you check your phone… choose an event that happens multiple times a day and to what you can easily link the feeling of loving kindness for yourself.
Metta / Maitri meditation expanded
Loving kindness is an attitude and a feeling you can cultivate in your heart. When you can feel it strongly directed towards yourself and clearly notice the effects, then you can expand it and radiate it outward to your loved ones, nature, the earth, the sun etc. and also to neutral people. Eventually even to people you judge, people who hurt you consciously or unconsciously.
Finally, you can radiate loving kindness to all and everyone, realising all is one.
There is a prayer/ meditation in Pali, that you can use as metta / maitrī meditation.
Make sure you sit comfortably and cannot be disturbed. Now you focus on the feeling of loving kindness. This feeling you direct toward yourself (first part) of others (second part). You can use the Pali or the English words.
Aham avero homi
Sukhi attanam pariharami
May I be free of enmity and danger
May I be free of mental suffering
May I be free of physical suffering
May I be capable of taking care of me, joyfully
Suki attanam pariharantu
May you be free of enmity and danger
May you be free of mental suffering
May you be free of physical suffering
May you be capable of taking care of yourself, joyfully
metta meditatie originally or ‘positively’ translated
‘May I/you be free of’ is often translated in a positive statement. According to hypnotherapy, this is better because our subconscious is not capable of hearing negative words, so words like ‘not’ should always be avoided. If you want to feel happy, you never say ‘not depressed anymore’. But, in this old prayer/meditation, ‘being free of’ has it own purpose: it is to not define and therefore restrict the Divine/ the Light. I am educated as well in hypnotherapy as also experienced in this meditation and in my experience the original translation works by far the best. It might be because of the focus on the feeling, the attitude, the energy of loving kindness, that this energy will flow and be activated in you. It is about the energy, that goes beyond the words.
‘Free of physical suffering’ is often translated as ‘being healthy’, but I think this translation does not do any justice to the concept of being free from physical suffering, as that is so much more than being healthy. And there is no need to be healthy to not experience physical suffering. Suffering occurs only when you cannot embrace the situation that is. If it is important to you to rephrase it positively, then realise that you restrict the original meaning. Instead of ‘being healthy’, you could try ‘accept my physical form’, which is already a bit broader than ‘being healthy’.
‘Free of mental suffering’ is often translated as ‘being happy’. To my idea this completely misses the point as happiness in temporary by nature and related to situations, things or persons outside of us. ‘Being in peace’, though still more restricted than being free of mental suffering, covers a broader aspect of the meaning.
Would you let me know which translation works best for you? Or what the effect is of the first 3 steps? I would like to hear it please leave your reaction below.