In the Buddhist tradition, the practice of metta, or loving kindness, plays an important role. The ability to view other people and beings with benevolence is a strong value of this belief system. But in a world with so much violence, so many differing opinions, so many people who behave in ways that are not aligned with our own beliefs, how is it possible to truly view others—all others—with loving kindness?
The answer is, simply put, with practice. Just as we come to the yoga mat on a regular basis so that we can more easily come back to a peaceful, centered state of mind, so too can we cultivate loving kindness with regular practice. The metta practice is a practical, systematic way to increase your ability to perceive all beings as worthy of loving kindness. Its brilliance lies in its simplicity. You can get started today, in fact.
Find a comfortable place to sit. You could sit on a cushion or chair—whatever is comfortable and that allows you to sit erect without leaning against a support. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath for a moment to help you get centered. Begin by sending loving kindness to yourself. Feel accepted and loved—as though you are enough. Once you connect deeply to that feeling, move on to someone you love dearly. Feel your love and acceptance for that person. Once you feel it deeply, then move on to your family. Then extended family. Then your close friends. Then all your friends. Then acquaintances. Then your neighborhood, your town, your state, country, continent, and eventually, the entire world. Envision people all throughout the world—every one of them in need of love and kindness. Feel it deeply.
The metta meditation is a powerful practice that will help you to feel more connected to the people you know and love, and also to those people you don’t yet know, those you will never know, and even those you don’t want to know. With regular practice, your perspective will shift in a positive way. You may view problems in a new light (possibly as not problems as all). You will find a deeper understanding for the people you encounter in life. And you will likely feel a deep, true sense of peace in your heart. This simple practice is transformative.