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Metta Meditation for Forgiveness & Self-love

Metta meditation
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / truthseeker08

Metta meditation has been used for thousands of years to cultivate loving-kindness, compassion, acceptance and forgiveness. Find out how to practice by reading our simple guide.

Metta meditation, like many others, has its origins in Buddhism and mindfulness. It is an active form of meditation that focuses on loving thoughts. It is based on the mindfulness principle of moving our cognitive and emotional processes from head to heart in order to ease or escape our human suffering. Metta meditation can be a powerful way to cultivate acceptance, compassion, joy, happiness, forgiveness peace and other forms of positive emotions and experiences.  

According to the Dali Lama, “individual happiness can contribute in a profound and effective way to the overall improvement of our entire human community. The key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion.” Metta meditation is an ancient — and still very popular — way of releasing negative, harmful thoughts and feelings to cultivate unconditional love and complete forgiveness. So, let’s take a look at what it is and how to practice.

Metta Meditation: Loving-Kindness & Compassion

There are several forms of metta meditation and they can be used in many ways. Like all forms of meditation, metta is a personal and individual experience. Some practitioners focus on extending loving thoughts externally — to the planet, other people or animals — to send good will and healing energy. For others, metta is projected internally, to achieve self-love and self-acceptance.

At its most powerful, metta can be used to attain forgiveness and compassion and to let go of past trauma or difficult emotions. Repeating the meditation is reported to bring a state of forgiveness as we emotionally release. Metta meditation isn’t meant to suppress our feelings as they arise — but to help us transform or release them completely instead.

We have all experienced the unpleasant sensations — both physical and mental — that accompany hostile emotions like rage, grudges and emotional pain. Research has shown that developing a forgiving coping style may help minimize stress-related disorders and protect physical and mental health in the future.

A meta-analysis of existing evidence in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology agrees — reporting significant associations between anger and hostility and cardiovascular disease. It would appear that releasing negative emotions is an important step towards a healthy future.

Metta Meditation: The Science Behind the Art

Metta meditation can generate powerful results that ripple to others.
Metta meditation can generate powerful results that ripple to others.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / CptBratwurst3112)

A systematic review of 24 empirical studies confirmed that metta meditation could enhance positive emotions in daily life and that the ongoing practice could provide short-term positive emotions. Researchers from the Higher School of Economics University recently compared the effect of loving-kindness metta meditation and compassion metta meditation. Their findings suggest that loving-kindness meditation is more effective at increasing happiness but both forms are showing positive indications.

The modern world of healthcare is also interested in metta meditation due to emerging research findings. Researchers have shown metta to be a viable, practical, and time-effective solution for preventing burnout in healthcare workers — leading to a subsequent improvement in care quality for patients.

The clinical psychology literature also supports the application of these strategies in clinical practice and suggests that metta meditations:

  • Generate an increase in positive affect and a decrease in negative affect
  • May reduce stress-induced distress and immune response (according to neuroendocrine studies)
  • May enhance activation of brain areas that are involved in emotional processing and empathy (according to neuroimaging studies)
  • When combined with other evidence-based interventions — such as cognitive behavioral therapy — metta meditation may offer results in treating different psychological problems that involve interpersonal processes — such as social anxiety, marital conflict, anger, and coping with the strains of long-term care-giving.

How to Perform a Metta Meditation: Part 1

Metta meditations can be adapted to suit you.
Metta meditations can be adapted to suit you.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / StockSnap)

Some people like to engage in a little breath-work to prepare body and mind for meditation. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a simple place to begin your journey and has many associated benefits. If you are an advanced practitioner and would like to awaken your inner fire with the breath before engaging in metta, check out Tummo meditation for a heat-generating, mind-body experience that combines breath-work with visualization.

We have provided affirmations that are commonly used during metta meditation but feel free to use your own instead. You can use morning affirmations to start your day in a positive way or try some words of affirmation for loved ones if you would like to radiate good vibes to others. If you yourself need a little love, check out our guide to positive affirmations for self-love and choose a few that relate to your personal journey.

Part 1: Loving-Kindness Cultivation

  1. Sitting or lying comfortably, close your eyes.
  2. Let your hands relax into a comfortable position, or rest them on your heart to keep your focus here.
  3. Take three deep breaths and hold each inhalation for as long as you can.
  4. After the third exhalation, allow your breathing to settle into a natural rhythm in the background and let your body and mind relax.
  5. Bring your focus to the positive energy that exists everywhere and invite it in.
  6. Allow it to flow through and around you as you tell yourself:
  • May I receive love
  • May I receive peace
  • May I receive joy
  • May I receive compassion
  • May I receive acceptance
  • May I receive forgiveness

Part 2: Extending Loving-Kindness

  1. Take another deep breath and as you do, visualize the face of someone you love — someone special that makes you smile.
  2. See their features, feel their aura and experience the essence of this person that you love.
  3. Bring your awareness to the physical, mental and emotional sensations this face ignites within you.
  4. Absorb their radiance.
  5. Maintain your focus and tell that face:
  • May you receive love
  • May you receive peace
  • May you receive joy
  • May you receive compassion
  • May you receive acceptance
  • May you receive forgiveness

Allow the face to drift back into the darkness and visualize all the positive energy that exists between you and them. Feel it flowing through you and nourishing you. Feel it nourishing them as they fade. Allow yourself to be suspended in this loving energy for as long as you wish.

Part 3: Metta Meditation for Forgiveness & Compassion

Metta meditation is a powerful tool for cultivating forgiveness.
Metta meditation is a powerful tool for cultivating forgiveness.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / BenteBoe)

Metta meditation for forgiveness can be overwhelming and deeply emotional. There are no correct or incorrect ways to practice or feel, so engage as much as you are able to — or do what feels right for you. This part of the meditation should ideally be a continuation from part 2 and begin as you allow the face you love to fade. It begins as you return to the darkness — surrounded in loving-kindness.

  1. If you are able, now call to mind the face of the person that has hurt or harmed you.
  2. Again, see their features, feel their aura and experience their essence.
  3. Allow yourself to become aware of any physical sensations this might cause you to experience throughout your body.
  4. Don’t fight these physical sensations or any emotions that arise — just allow them to be and maintain your focus on the face that hurt you.
  5. Take a deep breath and if you are able, tell that face:
  • May you receive love
  • May you receive peace
  • May you receive joy
  • May you receive compassion
  • May you receive acceptance
  • May you receive forgiveness

Again, allow the face to drift back into the darkness and, this time, visualize all the negative energy that exists between you and them leaving your being. Feel it melting away, being replaced by forgiveness, acceptance and compassion as the face that hurt you melts away too.

Cultivating Loving-Kindness

Mindful practices can bring improved life quality.
Mindful practices can bring improved life quality.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / suju-foto)

There are many ways to cultivate healthy thoughts, emotions and behaviors. If you are interested in learning more about self-love, check out our article on learning self-love and why it matters — and don’t forget to practice metta meditations on a daily basis.

Many meditation practitioners use the ancient Vedic 7 Chakra System in conjunction with meditation practices, and metta meditation is a powerful tool to balance the Heart Chakra in particular. The 8 limbs of yoga is also an ancient teaching that many mindful practitioners adopt alongside metta meditation.

Becoming more mindful and learning how to live in the present moment has been enhancing human health for thousands of years and has evolved into a variety of mindfulness-based stress reduction strategies — like mindful walking, mindful speech and mindful awareness of our actions.

There are many types of journals for staying mindful and gratitude journal prompts for mindful happiness you can try too. Cultivating positive emotions in the present moment is an easy way to enhance your body, mind and being.

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