Sunday, March 5, 2017

Lovingkindness Prayer

The Pali word Metta is translated in English as "lovingkindness." There is a Buddhist and Yogic practice called Metta, in which a simple prayer is recited to direct lovingkindness to oneself, family, friends, strangers and enemies. The equivalent Sanskrit word is maitri. Jesus is quoted in the book of Matthew as saying, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," (chapter 5, verse 44).

It is a truism that love begins with the self; if we cannot direct love towards ourselves we cannot direct it outwardly, either. The Metta practice takes this wisdom to a practical level, providing us with a tool to become more wholeheartedly loving and kind. From personal experience, I can tell you that Metta practice brings peace and transforms difficult relationships.

To engage Metta practice one needs only a small block of uninterrupted time to repeat the prayer inwardly first towards oneself, then to loved ones, then to people about whom we feel neutral, and finally to people who trigger us emotionally or cause us some sort of angst. I find it powerful to envision the likeness of those to whom we direct the prayer.

Here is the Metta Lovingkindness Prayer:

May ___ be peaceful.
May ___ be happy.
May ___ be well.
May ___ be safe.
May ___ be free from suffering.

For strangers or neutral persons, you may find it helpful to envision people you pass in the street yet don't know personally, your postal carrier, the barista at your coffee shop, air traffic controllers, the cab driver you had last week, etc. Once you begin to envision many people you don't know but see nonetheless, you will get a concrete sense of wishing strangers well and of wishing for the happiness of all people.

When you say the prayer directing it towards yourself or towards your enemies, you may find yourself upset and uncomfortable. This does not mean you should stop. In fact, transformation directly results from facing the discomfort. Make sure you have a friend, loved one or counselor you can speak to about any discomfort you experience so that it does not become a burden too difficult to bear on your own. If you believe in God, take your discomfort to God in prayer.

The general Metta prayer uses "all beings" to fill in the blank. You can silently repeat this general prayer to yourself in moments of stress throughout your day. It will bring you relief.

Because you are reading this, you are in my sphere of consciousness and so I wish you peace, happiness, wellness, safety and freedom from suffering, my sister, my brother, my mother, my father, my friend, and anyone who takes issue with me. May you be deeply blessed.

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