SuttaCentral

Metta: How Best to Cultivate Metta for Ourselves?

Of course it was great to see and listen to Bhante’s newest guided Metta meditation. https://youtu.be/osF367UzUMo

I have an interest in Metta as a practice, and am fortunate enough to have been able to visit with Ajahn Maha Chatchai at Wat Phleng in Bangkok; Ajahn Maha Chatchai is one of Bhante Sujato’s teachers, and so of course a year or two ago I wanted to seek Ajahn Chatchai out for the Sunday Metta meditation. It’s been more than great; highly recommended…I’ll be back there this autumn.

So here’s my issue/question: In the west it’s thought that many of us have difficulty developing loving kindness for ourselves. Champions at beating ourselves up, and being self-critical, getting into a place where we are infused with Metta for ourselves at the outset of the practice is difficult.

In the new talk, above, Bhante talks a bit about grounding the Metta for oneself in the body. If I recall from listening a few days ago, the idea is that we have this capacity for self-compassion and love for ourselves, and we need to establish it within the body…ground ourselves in it.

I have had the thought that it could be beneficial at the outset of Metta practice to infuse oneself with the feelings, the emotions, the energy, and the dopamine and oxytocin release that we get when we meditate on someone, other than ourselves, that we truly love and for whom we wish only happiness, wellbeing and peace. One might think of one’s mother or father, or a beloved friend. Once we have this infusion of what true unselfish Metta is, we begin to direct these feelings, these energies to ourselves. At this point the Metta practice begins, with a true sense of infused love engulfing ourselves, borrowed, in a sense, from the emotions, energy, and dopamine cultivated in the first step. From ourselves, we then expand the practice outward to the loved person, to the neutral, etc.

Does this make sense to anyone? If I had 5 minutes with Bhante Sujato, I might ask him: how do we find this deep and powerful emotion and energy of self love inside of ourselves, in the body? Lacking that ability, what can we do to resuscitate it?

13 Likes

Great topic :slight_smile:
I had a lot of trouble with compassion for myself… What finally cracked it for me, was perceiving just how differently I treated other people, from how I treated myself. By viewing myself as just a person (ie may all beings be happy, I’m a being, may I be happy too). It was also really useful from an ‘identity / self view’ perspective. When it clicked that I was regarding myself from a different Standard to other people (ie they deserve metta, but I should be above that etc etc), giving and receiving metta myself, was an excersize in minimising the delusion around self view… ie just the same old processes recycling through the Dhamma wheel, and definitely deserving of metta just for that! :sweat_smile:

10 Likes

I had the privilege of occasionally teaching metta meditation and I used to ask people to remember how they felt when someone opened the door for them, or let them in during heavy traffic or smiled and said good morning to them - perhaps at the supermarket checkout. And/or how they felt when they did such things to other people.

Metta is actually a big part of our daily lives. We just don’t notice it. Partly because we don’t value it when it’s simple and humble - we want something more. But it just starts with recognising these simple feelings and “making much of them” as it says in the Suttas…i.e. beginning to value them and growing the habit of giving them a bit more attention, instead of the neglect we’ve cultivated towards these humble, pleasant emotions.

Basically, we don’t need to start off experiencing copious amounts of bliss. My philosophy is that if I can feel even a tiny little bit of metta, I can do metta meditation. If I can open the door for a stranger or smile at someone and say good morning, all I really need is to notice - and later remember - how I feel at that time - how this action makes me feel emotionally/physically - and use that feeling. From my limited experience, I’ve found this is all most people need.

It reminds me of how Ajahn Brahm teaches. He suggests you use a real/imaginary object to bring up the emotion of metta first. He recommends something imaginary in case you have complicated relationships with real beings. He even suggests the use of a teddy bear! :bear:

I find anything that makes me go: Awwwww… :relaxed: :hugs: :blush: …and can generally make a person feel a bit “melty” is of use. :slight_smile:

Wonderful topic and question. Anumodana :anjal:

16 Likes

Had some difficulties getting into the metta groove before i changed the word “loving” to “friendly”. Guess i might be kinda greedy type so “love” to me is just use it and loose it, but being friendly is something I do understand enough.

Had also some difficulties feeling the warmth radiating from the heart, but it became easier when one connected the heart chakra into overall metta practice.
Now it’s enough to think “green” and then the feeling starts developing by it self.

5 Likes

Yes, these apparently small acts can be very significant. And I have found that a little bit of metta can go a long way, being a little kinder or a little more accepting, or whatever.

8 Likes

If i compare the way I incorporate metta into practice is it actually by not thinking about the words anymore, and relying on a developed sense of total friendliness to the world, as in the world I make, and are therefore in my best interest to tolerate and act friendly towards.

Like to mention a hindrance I experienced before like where the one i wanted to send metta to had to be sought out in the world out there … and that was to me a difficult task to do because i had to remember a picture or scene and then “move into it” before sending metta. After a while (quite a while) I came to understand that there was exactly the same distance to these objects as it was to my own heart, and that is closer than everything else, so what was I thinking about for so long …? :wink:

Like seeing something nice here, and feeling a spur of joy, compassion and metta, and having the mindfulness to direct it somewhere/someone. I do think small spurs like that can make a difference, and at least it does it to me when I follow up those moments.

Like to mention that dear Ajahn Brahm gave me a good start in developing this style, and it’s based on his simile used in teaching meditation, where one regards one’s owe mind the best of the best of friends, and then hangin out together chillin …

But when one talks about metta, what about the rest of the four BV?
I believe that all of the four can be detected in the feeling we call “metta”, so if there is sufficient metta, there is also a certain degree of the three other … But this is just my ramblings so far … :slight_smile:

Be well!

5 Likes

I think I used to have a similar problem…

I would agonise for ages on correctly visualising someone!

Or I’d have this need to make sure that I covered distances correctly and accurately in my imagination when I sent metta across to different places or people in far away places sometimes!!

It also took me ages to realise that it didn’t matter about the distance or the accuracy of the visualisation. And it was such a relief when I stopped worrying about this and just let it be however it was!

:slight_smile:

5 Likes

I wonder if I could just put in a plug for the book - A Flower Called Metta by Ajahn Chatchai.

PDF’s in English & Thai can be found here.

9 Likes

i have found that the practice of eating can be a doorway to metta. It is a simple thing, done a few times daily. This food i am given or give, this nourishment for this life from other lives, some farmers, some cows, some pollinators, some plants. May it be used respectfully, and with kindness. May my guts digest it well. May i manage hunger, and not hurry, not bite that tongue, not swallow too quickly, may i be graceful and content in eating. This is one thing i can do; there are others who cannot, may their feeding tubes satisfy hungers, may kindness be our Common meeting place…

Just some thoughts. One can be kind to parts of oneself, and see the Self isn’t here or there, but dedicate it to liberation, with peace and happiness on the sides or folded in. :slight_smile:

lol May kindness blossom.

6 Likes

Thank you, kindly @stu! In reading this book, I came across the advice to bring gentleness to all of one’s actions, walking, eating, working, etc. This was an insight I had a year or more ago, and while I practiced the technique, it proved very beneficial to my mediations. For some reason, though, I’d forgotten all about it, and allowed my actions to become unmindful and coarse. Now, thanks to you and this wonderful little book, I can recommit to gentleness by body, not just speech and mind.

Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu!
:anjal::pray:

10 Likes

For me, I found metta very difficult for years till I encountered Analayo’s work, which simplified it for me. He approaches metta as an ‘attitude’. Send it in, then send it out.

10 Likes

Thank you so much for sharing this Stuart, exactly what I needed right now :slightly_smiling_face:

Much metta :anjal:

5 Likes

Dear Friends in the Dhamma,
In my view, Metta to oneself & Metta to others have not much of a difference. We are all subject to Dukkha, Suffering! We are all nothing but, the Dukkha, the five aggregates affected by clinging! I am suffering, we are suffering: so, we all need the Metta! The perception that we are all full of Dukkha would help develop Metta to oneself as well as to the rest of the world.

For Metta Meditation to work, Karuna, (Compassion), is an essential pre-condition. Not doing any evil acts & engaging in virtuous deeds would create conducive conditions for purifying one’s own mind. (Verse 183, the Buddha Vagga, Dhammapada). When one’s own mind is at peace, then the mind opens up in a joyful way. Meditation becomes easier! Wishing oneself & also, the rest of the world happiness & peace becomes just the second nature! Metta Bhavana takes off!

So, a peaceful mind is the stepping stone to develop Metta to oneself. Engaging in wholesome acts to help others is the best way to develop a peaceful mind. Such wholesome acts can be as small as helping a small insect drowning in a cup of water or could be in medium to large scale depending on one’s own resources & capabilities. At family level, one could help make the life a bit more comfortable for one’s own spouse/partner. Washing one’s own cup is a good start! Helping one’s own relatives who are in need would give more happiness than ignoring their suffering. Helping unknown people who are in need would be another way of practising Karuna in an unattached way. One could use well-known, global organisations such as UNICEF, UNHCR, Buddhist Global Relief, BSWA, Oxfam etc. &/or little-known, local organisations, personally known to each individual. If one has the desire to help, finding such local organisations is not difficult at all. Where there is a will, there is a way, always!

Memories of past kind acts by oneself to others & by others to oneself or any such kind acts by anyone would certainly help calm the mind & generate Metta. One doesn’t need to remember them intentionally but, if done with a pure heart, they will come out at the right time, when needed!

• A few years ago, a person went for a certain medical procedure. At the end of it, a nurse was holding a piece of cloth & putting some pressure to stop bleeding. After a few minutes, the nurse said, “I can’t stop this bleeding”. The patient though a little startled, started to pass Metta to himself, to the nurse & the others in the recovery ward. Out of the blues, a memory came to him of a kind act that he did about 35 years ago when he was working as an expatriate in Zambia. He was the Acting General Manager of the company that he was working for, on the day in question. He went out of the way & authorised to pay for airlifting a company employee whose life was at threat due to a mishap in a surgery when there was no obligation on the part of the company to pay for the airlift. After a week or so, the employee returned to work, came to his office & said, if not for your very kind act, I wouldn’t be here! When the nurse said I can’t stop this bleeding, he remembered what he did to save that person’s life, all those years ago. His mind became calm & the bleeding has stopped!

• Ven Ajahn Brahm, in his award winning, very popular book Good? Bad? Who Knows?, tells the story of how he enjoyed helping as a volunteer at the Occupational Therapy Department for those Institutionalised for Downe’s Syndrome at a hospital in London. That time he would have been about 20 years old & Ajahn says in his book, (page 78), “To this day, I regard them as the experts, my teachers”. So, if volunteering could benefit even a very gifted person like young, Peter Betts who was to become the Great Ven Ajahn Brahmavamso Maha Thero, what about the rest of us!

• A lady who is working two days a week, a couple of hours a day, at the local Op Shop says, it is like a therapy for her & it helps her calm her mind.

• Yesterday, (22 July 2018), at the Entry to the Rains at Bodhinyana, when Ven Ajahn Brahm was telling the story of the Tsunami Crocodile, (also, in Good? Bad? Who Knows, page 31), a person could not stop the tears coming down! Even though he has heard the story a number of times, when listening to the story of the kindness of some unknown person & the unbelievable result of that kindness, the mind became very calm, happiness arose & the conditions became conducive to meditation! If not for the end of the ceremony & also, for the need to come home, prepare & take some medicine to a very sick monastic, it could have been a very good Metta meditation session!

So helping others, in whatever the way, within our means, would go a long way to bring us happiness & peace. Such acts stay in one’s mind & when needed, they come out & help in calming the mind!

In the Dakkinavibhanga Sutta, (MN142), Lord Buddha discoursed on different levels of results that may be gained by making offering of gifts to different beings. Lord Buddha discoursed that by giving a gift to an animal or to an immoral person, the offering may be expected to repay a thousandfold. In the same Sutta, Lord Buddha discoursed that the offering of gifts that would bring highest merits would be those gifts offered to good, practising monastics that follow the Noble Eightfold Path. Not only would such offerings bring higher results but, would help purify one’s own mind, making the conditions favourable to the practice of Metta meditation. We don’t have to go very far to find good practising Sangha. They are right here, in our midst, at Bodhinyana & Dhammasara Monasteries & at Patacara Hermitage. Offerings need not be just requisites & cash donations! One could clean the cottages at Jhana Grove, join the volunteer teams at Dhammaloka, join a sub-committee, offer the specific medicinal needs & care to the sick Sangha, provide transport services to monastics, provide a helping hand in the office or such similar acts. So, what are you waiting for?

Of course, the best way of practising virtuous acts is to practise the 2nd factor of the Noble Eight Fold Path, Samma Sankappa, (Right Motivation), which encompass motivation to renunciate, having no ill-will & practising non-cruelty. No doubt, the monastic life is the most conducive way of practising Samma Sankappa but for lay-people, too, it is not difficult to engage in the practice of Samma Sankappa. There are various levels of practising renunciation. For example,

• a young man who had a very lucrative, comfortable engineering job in a global organisation, in his own home town, gave up that job to follow his dream of helping this world tackle the effect of climate change. That is Renunciation!

• A family, who has been sponsoring needy, deserving students for over 25 years, says that some of the students that they sponsored are now practising as medical doctors somewhere in Sri Lanka but, don’t know where they are! That is giving without clinging!!

So, if you wish to practise Metta meditation, to oneself & to others, don’t just sit there on the cushion but, also, go & help those in need! Recollecting one’s own good deeds is the best way to develop Metta to oneself & to others!!

With Metta to all beings,
Upasako

4 Likes

Fall totally in love with oneself, and see that inside is outside and it all just sums up in a big beautiful :heart:

:desert_island:

3 Likes

When I was first introduced to metta meditation I didn’t understand what they meant by metta. So I was encouraged to imagine meeting an old friend that I hadn’t seen for a long time. And I was told that metta is the “skip of the heart” when seeing the old friend. This helped me very much because at that point in my life I thought all love had ended never to arise again. Being given that instruction I could see that there was still a small ember of love left in my heart. There was a natural, beautiful spring towards friendliness inside of me which needed to be recognised to allow for growth. So the metta for a friend became metta for myself also - it became obvious that it was still there in the relationship between me and (some) others. In the giving of love, I receive love also. Don’t know if that makes much sense, or if it is helpful, but it felt appropriate to share.

15 Likes

Good stuff, Stu…thanks for sharing this.

4 Likes

Taking metta practice off the cushion and practicing it whenever I can, or when an opportunity presents itself for me not to become angry practicing metta has been very helpful.

On the cushion, practicing metta after deep samadhi/jhana makes it quite powerful, in my experience.

Different methods work for different people so it’s good to have this thread!

With metta

7 Likes

Just wanted to share my favorite quote from “A Flower Called Metta” by Ajahn Chatchai :anjal:

Having metta means maintaining goodwill in our heart and being contented with ourselves, with whom and what we are, without any need for outside influences.
This state of mind will happen only after our heart has a certain degree of tenderness. Therefore, we should ceaselessly practice doing everything with gentleness in our heart. It doesn’t matter whether sensations come to us or whether we go out and grasp them, try to maintain a kind and gentle reaction. We all can learn and train our mind.

Simple and so beautiful! Inspired me to practice metta much more than I used to.

13 Likes


Ajahn Maha Chatchai

9 Likes

Last week my family were fortunate to be granted a three-day meditation retreat with Ajahn Chatchai. We listened to a dhamma talk in the morning, then lunch, then free meditation (or kindful snoring :smiley: ). Mid-afternoon, Ajahn gave us over two hours to ask or discuss dhamma issues with Ajahn.

During that short retreat, I also re-read the book ‘A Flower Called Metta’, and asked Ajahn about some points that most people ask, especially the difference between using metta in meditation and sending metta to people (sharing metta and merits), as well as the question why we can’t think of a person of the opposite gender in our metta meditation.

In short, the retreat was simply wonderful.

I’ve realised how I have lost touch with the dhamma over the past couple years. Thank you, Ajahn Chatchai, for kindly guiding me back to the path. And thank you, Bhante @sujato for introducing Ajahn Chatchai to us.

So deeply grateful to all the teachers and dhamma friends, including @stu, @rudite and @Kay.

Dheerayupa

11 Likes