“Peace is not just the absence of violence. It’s the manifestation of human compassion.”
– His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama
This is a meditation of love and care that we apply to ourselves first and then we expand to all living beings. In the Pali language, metta is loving kindness, unconditional, inclusive love. It has no conditions: it does not depend on whether one “deserves” it or not; it is not restricted because it extends out from personal categories to include all living beings. There are no expectations of anything in return. This is the ideal, pure love, which everyone has in potential.
In this meditation, we begin with loving ourselves, for unless we have a measure of this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others. Then we include others who are special to us, and, ultimately, all living things. Gradually, both the visualization and the meditation phrases blend into the actual experience, the feeling of loving kindness.
During the last two decades, neuroscience has been focussing on the effects of a regular practice of metta meditation on our body and mind. The experience of metta has proven to be beneficial on a number of levels:
- increases positive emotions
- decreases disruptive mental states
- improves the stress response
- stimulates the social brain (limbic system and prefrontal cortex)
- increases self-love