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Metta bhavana meditation can be translated as "Cultivation of Metta". Metta doesn't have a direct translation in English, but can be thought of as "loving-kindness". The cultivation of loving-kindness can be used to create harmony within relationships as well as inner peace.
image thanks to suchitra print's
Metta Meditation can have a tremendous effect on the amount of joy in your life at the present moment. Through the cultivation of loving-kindness you will feel absolute acceptance; you'll also be sharing this positive energy with someone you care about. In advanced forms of Metta meditation, the cultivated loving-kindness is then extended towards all sentient beings.
The act of cultivating loving-kindness will develop your ability to experience love and compassion to the core of your being. When we allow ourselves to experience unconditional love we also give ourselves the ability to accept others. Without self-acceptance it is difficult to form lasting relationships in our lives. Love for yourself will grow outwards, reaching out to those you care about most. Eventually this feeling will extend to more than just your immediate relationships, allowing you to experience compassion for every individual.
To begin this loving-kindness meditation focus on sending loving thoughts to yourself. Recall a time when you were happy, feeling at ease with yourself. Picture a moment when peace permeated your entire being.
One method of focusing on this feeling is to repeat a phrase in your head, such as: "I love myself unconditionally, and accept myself just as I am". Something which allows you to feel peace within, is what your thoughts should focus on. The energy of these thoughts will manifest themselves as a warm feeling coming from within. Take a few moments to develop this feeling, allowing it to grow.
Once you have created this feeling within, then you can move on to creating a positive reality frame for yourself. Carry a thought in your mind of blessing the self. You can accomplish this by wishing for improvement in some part of your life. The desire for change in your life must have a deep meaning to you. Repeat the request for change within yourself. You will feel the energy which you created moving through your body. Repeat the wish for as long as it holds meaning for you. If your mind becomes distracted, then you are no longer feeling deep motivation for this wish. At this point you can change your focus, and request something else from yourself.
These requests will carry more energy with them than a normal goal. By developing loving-kindness for yourself the energy carries throughout your system, and will infuse itself into your actions.
Once you are pleased with the loving- kindness you have cultivated towards yourself, then you can share this energy with a spiritual partner. Select someone in your life and you share a good connection with. A living friend, of the same sex and close to the same age, would be fitting for this exercise. With your focus still on the loving-kindness energy, begin to think about sharing it with your friend. Feel compassion for your friend, wishing them happiness in every area of their life. When you take a sincere interest in their happiness, the love will flow both ways, creating benefits for both of you.
As your ability to cultivate loving-kindness grows so will your ability to extend compassion beyond those you care about. With successive loving-kindness meditation begin to focus your compassion towards people outside of your social circle. Doing so alleviates any negative feelings that you may unconsciously harbor. Begin to extend your compassion by first focusing on an individual you are indifferent towards. This may be someone you see everyday, but have no special connection with them. Hold this person in your mind while taking a genuine interest in their happiness.
image thanks to suchitra print's
Once you find that you are able to sustain genuine interest towards someone you are indifferent to, then extend compassion to someone that may be hostile. This is someone who may have wronged you in the past and you simply haven't been able to forgive them. When choosing someone for this exercise, don't select someone who recently hurt you. The feelings towards this person may generate thoughts which are just too powerful to move beyond at this point. Instead think of someone who might have hurt you, but you never really understood why. When you think of this person, negative thoughts and feeling could well up inside of you. That is why it's important to move to this stage when you have cultivated strong loving-kindness.
Holding an enemy in the mind could overwhelm you if you are not prepared to think of them objectively. When thinking of this person, or what they did, try to maintain an objective point of view. Try not to take their actions personally. Chances are that this person simply acted out of ignorance, or their own perceived low self-worth. When you are able to treat an enemy as a human being, still worthy of your compassion, then you have moved beyond harboring ill-will.
At this point, being free of negative thoughts, you can choose to extend your compassion to all sentient beings. You most likely recognize now that we are all the same. We all have similar needs in life, love being one of them. Imagine your love flowing outwards around the planet to every human being. You can also picture your love flowing in waves, reaching out to every plant, animal and creature throughout the planet.
The process of cultivating metta will prove to be a rewarding practice. The ability to let go of negative thoughts and energy will allow your mind to move forward and create positive action in your life. When we move forward, concentrating all of our thought and effort on positive creation, then we act from higher levels of thinking. Cooperation and compassion are most certainly higher order thinking processes. This evolution of thought processes will allow you to live a life filled with love, bringing peace to those around you as well.
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When we understand that all of our experiences begin and end due to our interaction with other sentient beings, we can see why it is so important to have love for all. To understand how compassion and love for others affects the world we live in, please visit this page: Loving-kindness as related to mental training.