The first of the Four Immeasurables is Loving Kindness, maitri or metta. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, maitri is often gets translated as friendliness, the Tibetan translation is love, but not in the sense of attachment love.  Jetsumna pointed out that in English, the word ‘love’ is impoverished. We use the same word for ‘I love my children’ and ‘I love ice cream.’ We mistake attachment and lust for love.  It’s almost not a useful word anymore. Therefore, a better translation that is less confusing is ‘loving kindness.’ Loving kindness is a warmth of the heart accompanied by the wish, “May you be well and happy.” And we must begin with ourselves.

Love has to be unconditional like the sun.  The sun does not shine only on sun worshippers.  The sun gives warmth to all everywhere.  The practice of Loving Kindness is designed to help us develop this quality of maitri so that eventually the feeling is natural spontaneous occurrence with everyone we meet.  The formal practice offers 5 stages.  These do not all need to be done in a single sitting.  Better to do small achievable sits that are refreshing than exhaust the mind with too long a practice.

A Loving Kindness Meditation

The order in which we practice Loving Kindness Mediation is:

  1. With ourselves
  2. With someone we dearly love and/or like
  3. With someone with whom we are neutral
  4. With someone with whom we have problems, even an enemy
  5. In all directions towards all beings and the whole planet

 

Step 1: With ourselves

  • Sit comfortably with the spine aligned and skull balanced.
  • Let your attention come to the rise and fall of your breath in the center of your heart center.
  • Begin to let the mantra, “May you be well and happy” ride with your breath, directing the mantra towards yourself. 

Be with this for 10 minutes. If this is all you have capacity for today, stop here.

Step 2: With someone we deeply care for

Still sitting comfortably, bring someone you deeply care for and easily wish to be happy into your field of awareness.  With your attention on them, let the mantra of “May you be well and happy” emanate from your heart center and ride with the breath and help hold you steady in your focus.

Be here 5 to 10 minutes. Again, if this is all you have capacity for today, stop here.

Step 3: With someone who is neutral to us

Someone neutral means someone you might see all the time, but for whom you have never given their personal happiness any thought.  Someone you neither like nor dislike. Jetsumna reminded us that everyone wants to be happy.  Because even while insignificant to us, “to themselves, they are the center of their universe.” Perhaps a gal in a coffee shop, or a post office worker, or a co-worker with whom you rarely interact is the right choice.  Still sitting comfortably, allow yourself to focus on them and again allow the mantra of, “May you be well and happy” ride with your breath and offer it sincerely in their direction from your heart.

Be here 5 to 10 minutes. Again, if this is all you have capacity for today, stop here.

Step 4: With someone who causes us difficulty

The next step is to choose someone with whom we are having difficulty.  We do not need to start with our greatest enemy.  We can begin with someone we even like, but who is irritating us at the moment.  The process is the same, still sitting comfortably, begin to imagine the person in front of you.  Genuinely from your heart, begin to offer the mantra, “May you be well and happy” letting it ride with the breath.

Be here 5 to 10 minutes.

Step 5: With the whole world

As the close to the practice, begin to feel your heart reach out in all directions around the whole planet.  Let the same mantra help steady you as you wish all beings everywhere to be well and happy from the center of your heart.

Be here 5 to 10 minutes.

 

Troubles and difficulties are to be expected with the practice.  Also expected is a greater sense of ease and spaciousness.  If you are brand new to this, remember that everything takes practice.  Continue bravely and with great courage.