How to Cultivate a Sense of Inner Peace with the Practice of Metta
Extending the circle of compassion starts with ourselves. As children, many of us were taught the value of being kind to others. Rarely, however, has anyone reminded us of the importance of learning to be kind to ourselves.
Without including ourselves, our attempts to become more loving and kind are incomplete. Helping others gives us meaning. Helping ourselves gives us the necessary resources and strength to then help others. We must recognize ourselves as a source of kindness first before it can flow freely from us into the world.
MAY IS FOR METTA
Buddhist philosophy has a word to describe the practice of loving-kindness and benevolence towards all sentient beings: Mettā.
The concept of Metta helps us recognize our mutual interdependence and our shared desire for peace and happiness.
Regardless of our race, nationality, or belief system, we all want to be free of pain. We all want to enjoy our lives.
The Metta prayer is a means of directing our focus to the quality of loving-kindness. While there are many versions, the underlying intention is a wish for the happiness, peace, and joy of all beings.
The practice of Metta helps us shift out of painful feelings or attitudes as we mentally shower ourselves and others with wishes of good fortune and peace. That attitude leads to more positive and efficient ways of responding to the circumstances in our lives.
Perhaps the month “May” may remind us to focus on loving-kindness more often. We can start with learning to cultivate compassion for ourselves first.
Many people find that directing kindness towards others is easier than directing it towards themselves. I believe this basic feeling of low self-worth that many of us share goes back hundreds of generations.
You Are Good Enough — Just As You Are! At the root of many cultures still lies a belief that, as individuals, we don’t have the power to change our lives. People have been led to believe that they are somehow “bad” even before they are born. Even if we were never ingrained with such beliefs directly, they are heavily permeated through society. We still walk around feeling like we aren’t good enough no matter what we do. We can’t seem to be able to embrace ourselves for simply being.
The good news is that there is an antidote — compassion.
Your Self-Doubts Are Not Even Yours The concept of loving-kindness helps us generate compassion for ourselves for feeling the way we do. If we can recognize that our fears, self-doubts, and insecurities are often not even ours to begin with, we allow ourselves to let go of them. We instead learn to elevate our self-talk as we judge ourselves less.
We let go of blame when we realize that if the generations before us knew better, they would have done better. Loving-kindness towards our negative societal thought patterns opens the door to breaking free from them.
CULTIVATING A HAPPIER WORLD
Imagine that all of the goals and visions that you have for yourself have been achieved. You spend every day doing what you love and your physical, mental, and emotional well-being is shining. Perhaps your family is also beaming with joy.
We all want to be surrounded by happy people. But the father you go out to your community, the more you notice how many others are still in pain. In order to live in a happier world, we have to realize that the happiness of others matters to our own well-being as well.
When we are surrounded by those who aren’t happy, we can feel their pain. That often diminishes our own sense of peace.
Mental or physical unease often causes people to act in ways that we may judge as mean or unkind. In truth, they are simply trying to cope with their own pain. They often end up unconsciously reflecting their fears onto others.
One by one, we can become examples of what it means to act from a place of kindness. We can thus help others open and soften their hearts.
LEARNING TO BE HUMAN TOGETHER
There is a sense of relief in knowing that we are all working through our individual pains together. None of us are exempt from challenges. None of us are completely certain about what tomorrow will bring.
We’re all on the path of learning to imbue each moment with joy and meaning — together.
If we can use the wisdom from our own lessons to help others ease their pain, our pain now becomes a way for us to bring meaning. Our struggles weren’t in vain. Just as others have contributed their wisdom to us, we can use our lessons to contribute wisdom to others.
None of us have it all together — but together we have it all. Together, we have the resources to help others ease their burden. And one person at a time, we can keep working to repair the fabric of broken mental constructs that hold us back from acting in line with the goodness in our hearts.
APPLYING METTA FOR INNER PEACE
The Metta prayer is a great tool that can help us cultivate loving-kindness towards ourselves and others on a more consistent basis.
While the exact wording may differ across many versions of the prayer, the underlying concept is the same. Here is how to apply it in our lives.
Focus on the feeling of love, kindness, and compassion.
Start with yourself, wishing yourself peace and joy. Know that when you are at peace, you will be able to radiate out to others.
Extend your well-wishes out to others. Start with your family, community, and neighborhood. Extend this out until you feel a sense of loving-kindness for all sentient-beings.
Let the feeling wash over your whole body.
When you get back to doing what you were doing (or your next action), bring that feeling of loving-kindness into that action.
You can use this as a daily practice to start your day. Your actions will then spring forth from this more loving space and it will be much easier to notice the kind acts of others towards you. You may recognize feelings of compassion arising when your natural tendency may have been to judge or blame another.
The more you train yourself to focus on loving-kindness, the more you cultivate a sense of inner peace.
ANOTHER VERSION Here is another version of the Metta prayer from the Buddha Grove website. Find whatever version suits you if you wish to integrate it into your daily habits.
My heart fills with loving-kindness. I love myself. May I be happy. May I be well. May I be peaceful. May I be free.
May all beings in my vicinity be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
May all beings in my city be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
May all beings in my state be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
May all beings in my country be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
May all beings on my continent be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
May all beings in my hemisphere be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
May all beings on planet Earth be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
May my parents be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
May all my friends be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
May all my enemies be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
May all beings in the Universe be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
If I have hurt anyone, knowingly or unknowingly in thought, word or deed, I ask for their forgiveness.
If anyone has hurt me, knowingly or unknowingly in thought, word or deed, I extend my forgiveness.
May all beings everywhere, whether near or far, whether known to me or unknown, be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
THANK YOU FOR READING THIS, SWEET SOUL! MAY YOU BE HAPPY, JOYFUL, AND WELL!