May 14, 2013
We all could use a lot more metta in our lives.
The Pali (a Middle Indo-Aryan language) word means loving kindness. Metta meditation is a practice that allows you to generate feelings of goodwill and love for yourself, your loved ones, those you feel neutral about and those you find difficult.
Pat Komarow, a local yoga and meditation teacher, will guide a metta meditation at Buddha Day at Marmalade at Smokebrush on Saturday. You don't have to be a Buddhist to attend.
"It's so powerful because it's unconditional," she said. "It's foreign to the Western world in that we can give unconditional love. It's really reteaching ourselves our own loveliness, kind of like a flower that blooms again from within. We spread it from ourselves to others."
The meditation begins by choosing a simple phrase: "May I have physical and mental well-being." "May I be happy." "May I be free from fear." "May I have the courage to be open to whatever happens to me."
Begin by being still and silent. Do some breath work, perhaps just some deep belly breaths. And then remember your own goodness, she said, which can be challenging.
"In this society, we have so much material wealth, but a poverty of self-esteem," she said. "It's not arrogance or confidence, but in terms of having deep esteem and care for themselves and tuning into what's in their highest good, it's not very common. Metta is a remedy for low self-esteem."
Turn your mind back to your phrase. Spend some time directing it to yourself, and then move on to a loved one: "May she be happy."
The third part of the meditation is directed toward a neutral person, somebody you might often see on the street or at the coffee shop.
"We have strong feelings about people, and to find someone to give this unconditional love to that we feel neutral about is hard," Komarow said.
"Why do we bother? It's taught that way because it helps us see that we can recognize that everybody wants to be happy, even those we don't have strong relationships with. We may hardly know somebody walking in our neighborhood, but to know we want them to be happy shows connection."
The last person we choose in metta meditation is somebody we find difficult. You might feel resistant or disingenuous, but that's OK.
"We'll incline our mind in that direction - just through the intention, it has benefit," Komarow said. "We can see them in a vulnerable state, either as an infant or on their death bed."
You can do this meditation on your own and for any length of time. On Saturday, it will last about 15 minutes, but Komarow has led hourlong metta meditations.
She will be part of a longer celebration Saturday. The Buddhist communities of Colorado Springs will come together for the Buddha's 2,556th birthday.
Mulson's column appears biweekly in The Gazette. Email her at email@example.com.