Rooted in the Buddhist tradition, Metta Bhavana or loving-kindness meditation offers a way to nurture compassion and create a deep sense of connection between us all.

Compassion is like a muscle, the more we use it the stronger it becomes.

The benefits of meditation are many, from alleviating stress and anxiety to promoting clear thinking. One of the easiest ways to meditate, especially for beginners, is listening to a guided meditation. I nearly always start my sound baths with one to help people relax and to enhance the benefits of the sound bath itself. Usually, I write these myself but this is one I didn’t write and it’s one of my favourites.

I first came across Metta Bhavana when a Reiki Master residential course and I have practiced it regularly ever since. I used it at the start of a sound bath last December. The theme of giving love to ourselves, as well as to the world, seemed apt for a sound bath in the lead-up to Christmas. I recorded it so that people could listen to it at home.

Here’s my version of the meditation shared on YouTube. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, dim the lights or wear an eye mask, lie down or sit up (with your back straight and your chin slightly tucked in) and listen to this recording. Ideally, though, I’d recommend reading my article below about the philosophy behind Metta Bhavana and its many benefits first.

The Origins of Metta Bhavana

Metta Bhavana originally appeared in early Buddhist teachings. The term “Metta” translates to “loving-kindness” or “friendliness” in Pali, emphasizing the cultivation of a boundless, warm-hearted goodwill towards oneself and others.

At its core, Metta Bhavana involves the intentional generation and expansion of feelings of love and benevolence. The practice progresses through stages, beginning with the cultivation of loving-kindness towards oneself and gradually extending it outward to loved ones, then strangers, followed by people you dislike, and finally, to all humankind without exception.

The benefits of Metta Bhavana

  • Cultivating Emotional Resilience: Metta Bhavana strengthens emotional resilience, providing a foundation to navigate life’s challenges with grace and compassion.
  • Enhancing Relationships: By fostering feelings of love and goodwill, the practice contributes to healthier and more harmonious relationships, both with oneself and others.
  • Reducing Stress and Anxiety: Regular practice of Metta Bhavana has been linked to reduced stress and anxiety levels, promoting mental well-being.
  • Increasing Empathy: The intentional focus on compassion enhances empathy, fostering a deeper understanding of the emotions and experiences of others.
  • Promoting Inner Peace: The serene and loving mindset cultivated through Metta Bhavana creates a profound sense of inner peace and contentment.

The Stages of Metta Bhavana

  1. Self-Love: Begin by directing loving-kindness towards yourself, acknowledging your worthiness of love and compassion.
  2. Loved Ones: Expand these feelings to close friends and family, wishing them happiness and well-being.
  3. Neutral Individuals: Extend loving-kindness to acquaintances or individuals with whom you have neutral feelings.
  4. Challenging Relationships: Challenge yourself to radiate compassion towards those with whom you may have difficulties or conflicts.
  5. Universal Love: Finally, extend metta to all beings without discrimination, embracing the interconnectedness of all life.

Avoiding toxic positivity

Of course, there are some people, some situations, when feeling compassion can be too challenging. Anger, hurt and frustration are all valid feelings too. Saying you should never feel them is unrealistic and unhealthy.

Who you choose for step 4 is entirely up to you. It might be someone you simply find mildly annoying. You can always progress to more challenging people in time should you wish too.

If you practice compassion regularly your capacity for compassion will grow. I find practising Metta Bhavana soothes and calms me. I hope you find this too.

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