A Loving-Kindness Meditation Practice: Relationships and Self
Attending a guided meditation with Alejandro at Yoga Mala this Wednesday morning, I was reminded of a practice that has been and continues to be transformative for me. The practice, which comes from the Metta tradition of Buddhism is focused on cultivating Maitri, or loving-kindness/unlimited friendliness. Every time I use this beautiful tool, I am surprised by what comes up for me, and the way the contemplation gently guides me to a new level of acceptance, sublimating negativity with positive and peaceful feelings around all the relationships in my life – including those that are most difficult.
In this Maitri meditation practice, you visualize your relationships, moving sequentially through four of them specifically. It begins with yourself, then moves to a person you care greatly about and find easy to love, then to a person about whom you are dispassionate—perhaps a mere acquaintance, and finally, it focuses your intention on a difficult person – someone who seems to create obstacles in your life and for whom it may be hard to feel the love.
For each relationship, you internally repeat the phrases below substituting the word “I” the first time, then substituting the name of the person you are visualizing in each successive iteration:
May (I/they) be well.
May (I/they) be free of suffering and the root causes of suffering.
May (I/they) know happiness and the root causes of happiness.
As you progress through the meditation you may find as I have, that the heart feels more spacious, and less restricted. With repeated practice, the emotional knots that exist around our relationships may be loosened and untied to allow more clarity and a deeper more relaxed experience in the present moment.
Yoga practitioners will note that the chant often used as a prelude to asana practice broadly expresses the same intention as the Maitri practice:
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
One literal translation of these Sanskrit words is this:
May all beings be centered in happiness and joy, free from suffering. May they know the divine state of unified existence. May I participate in making it so.
Nancy is a co-owner and yoga teacher at Yoga Mala. She has been studying and practicing yoga since 1973. Her Vinyasa Flow classes invite students to use their own body’s intelligence as they move through guided sun salutations and balanced asana sequences. Her teaching is inspired by direct observation of the restorative and transformative benefits that follow from intention and practice.