How metta

After writing how I’d only tried meditation once at home, I felt pressure to try again. Doing it once a week in class is fine, but to reap all the benefits, I know I need to practice regularly. Yesterday morning, I found myself vexed over a difficult person I am forced to spend a lot of time around, and it dawned on me that meditation might help.

I guess everyone has someone like this in their life. My person is consistently negative, two-faced, ungrateful and oblivious to it all. Lately, everything about her rubs me the wrong way and the other day I overheard her whispering to someone else (yet again) and I think it might have been about me. Gossip is all fun and games until it’s about me.

And what do I do with all this negative energy towards someone with an already abundant supply of negative energy? Ignore her? Oh I wish. Tell her off? Not my style and not an option anyway. Pray for her? Maybe something like that.

The other day in meditation class the instructor had us do what’s called a metta meditation, also known as a loving kindness meditation. Instead of focusing on the breath, you silently repeat a series of phrases focused around wishing someone freedom from harm and distress. Usually you start with yourself as the subject and then move onto the people you love, animals, strangers, and even enraged people that gesture wildly at you from the safety of their own car.

This is an example of a traditional metta meditation directed towards another person:

1. May she be safe and protected.

2. May she be peaceful and happy.

3. May she be healthy and strong.

4. May she have ease of well being and accept all the conditions of the world.

Because I have a lifelong inability to memorize songs or phrases plus a handy tendency to just wing it when I need to recall unfamiliar words (as a kid, I knew you were supposed to follow the speed lemon and that my babysitter loved watching soap boxers), I made up my own list of four things I wished for this person. I don’t think the words matter so much as the sentiment. When I repeated them, I genuinely meant them. I was wishing goodwill towards her for ten solid minutes.

speedlemon
Speed lemon (thanks google images, this makes up for all the scary searches!)

Why would metta meditation work? Does me sitting in my kitchen thinking positive thoughts send them drifting over like puffy clouds, which shower her with rainbow-glitter-happiness? Probably not, though that does sound kind of cool (or creepy).

I suspect it works by retraining the way I think about her. The metta meditation reminds me very much of the two-week resentment prayer I heard about long ago at a 12-step meeting.

If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free…Even when you don’t really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.

I am not a pray-er because praying still calls to mind asking for a better grade than I deserve or immediate repeal of unfortunate consequences after I did something really stupid. Meditation is my version of prayer, plus there’s no mention of doing a metta meditation every day for two whole weeks.

Does it work? I did feel better afterwards. I felt less consumed by my own negative feelings. I felt more peaceful and focused, which is usually the case immediately after I meditate. Later in the day, I felt myself get riled up again, so maybe there are no shortcuts on the two week rule.

Because I can’t change difficult people or let everything roll off my back, the only thing I know to do is try and retrain the way I think about them. There have been plenty of people in my life that I’ve viewed in a more positive light than they probably deserved, myself included. Even if metta meditation is just a trick of the light, the end result is a greater good.

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8 thoughts on “How metta

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  1. I’m working my way up to step 11 and so will begin meditating soon. I’m at the same time looking forward to it because, as a heavy coffee drinker, I’d like sometimes to slow down my train of thought, but I’m also afraid it’ll be boring. Time will tell!

    Your reference to resentments made me smile because I went to the same kind of meeting in AA. We were given a plastic nugget (a resentment chip) and told to hold it once a day and pray that the person we resented would receive all the things we wanted. Powerful mojo, that.

    Thanks for your insights on meditation, it’ll come in handy in a few weeks!

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  2. “You want me to do what?!” – I remember the first time someone suggested I “pray for him”… like hell!

    However that resentment – which was over an old drinking buddy, who claimed he really cared about me and was pleased I was sorting myself out then getting shirty about me going to AA meetings and “ignoring him”…

    It worked however despite all I felt at that time etc. I have no animosity toward him at all. Sadly he thinks I’m somewhere near plankton in the food chain of his life now since I never listened to him and ploughed my own furrow with AA and recovery. But I’m here if he changes his mind – accepting that I might change my opinion etc. but that he equally can chose to act how he does is another huge learning in life for me through the programme.

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  3. This is, by far, the most “challenging” principle. It goes against the grain of what I was taught. Just last night my daughter was experiencing a situation that called for release. It’s so wonderful that I have learned, relearned and will relearn this. I am able to teach her now and in doing so experience some changes in my subconscious programming. thank you

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  4. I will definitely try this. I know my resen\tments towards certain people is bad for me. So in the end although praying/mediiating for them seems a little strange in the end if it leads to better peace formyself – I am willing to give it a try. Thank you.

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  5. Being a firm believer in “what goes around comes around,” I think the metta meditation must change how you feel about the person you’ve been resenting, so you treat her differently, which affects how she feels about and treats you…if you see what I mean.
    Or maybe it all just gets balanced out in the great karmic beyond.

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  6. Thank you so much for this post. This is exactly what I needed to hear today…or read. HP works in mysterious ways 🙂 I know of the praying for 2 weeks and I have tried it few times. I never make it to 2 weeks, the feelings seem to slip away. So thanks for the reminder, I seem to have a new person to add to my prayer list.

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  7. I’m a pray-er, which I think is just another form of meditation, but I have to admit I don’t readily think of praying for persons I don’t like. Hmmm…Wow, my prayer list just increased by like 100 fold. Not really, but there are a few. Just imagine for a few minutes what a world would be like if we were all sending good vibes out, even to those we don’t like.
    Groovy!

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  8. Holy awesome posts today – ya’ll are on a dynamic and powerful roll today!!!!!

    Yup, I recall, just as I began AA over a decade ago combined with the beginning of a tumultuous divorce litigation, my sponsor asked me to conduct this exercise as my resentments regarding my ex were contributing to ongoing relapse. . Frankly, I was unsuccessful with this at that time, too new in sobriety I suspect – don’t know. But, the practice of praying continuously for an enemy is the real deal and has led to my capability for softening my heart – I thank God for this practice.

    We used to try ‘changing’ these people who were so difficult in our everyday lives. Oh what energy that took, lol,,, thank God for a new way of living

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