Photo courtesy of Madeline Northway Photography and Room to Breathe Chicago

Have you heard of “metta meditation”?

It’s an important word everyone ought to know.

I’ll get into why, but I’d like to take a moment to talk about judgment and criticism.  

If you’re like me, you can be highly critical of yourself… and others at times. Although I know none of us wants to admit the latter.

But even if I think I am accepting of others, of course there are people in my life that I judge. Or maybe they’re people I don’t know… politicians, for example.

Did that ignite a jolt of energy through your body?

The criticism and judgment we carry is human. But if left unchecked, we harm ourselves and the world around us.

Anxious feelings surface. Anger bubbles up. And then what?

We destroy… ourselves and connections around us.

Want to know how to transform that judgment into something positive?

Well, it takes moment-to-moment awareness to remember to be kind to myself. And when I do it genuinely, I can be kind to others.

One way to practice moment-to-moment awareness is through the practice of “metta“.

“Metta”, the Pali word for “lovingkindness”. Metta meditation comes from the Buddhist tradition. It integrates intention, feelings, and visualizations to elicit compassion.

Based in love, this practice has the power to develop compassion toward ourselves, as well as those “hard to deal with” people in our lives.

You can spend as little or as much time as feels right to practice. I recommend aiming for about 10 minutes to start.

The steps of Metta Meditation are as follows: 

1. Begin by sitting in a comfortable position. If you are sitting on the ground, you may sit on the edge of a folded blanket or cushion in order to elevate your hips so they are higher than the knees. This helps elongate the spine.

2. Take a moment to allow your body to rest and soften. Then take a few deep breaths in and out to let go of any worries.

3. Start to feel into the heart space at the center of the chest. Draw your breath into that area and allow it to soften resting in the natural flow of your breath.

4. We begin with ourselves, as it is difficult to feel compassion for others if we cannot first practice with ourselves. Repeat the following:

May I be at ease.
May I be healthy.
May I be safe.
May I be free.

Feel into the intentions that are expressed. You might imagine yourself just as you are with light and warmth around you. Or sometimes it’s useful to visualize yourself as a young child in need of nurturing. Spend some time cultivating love and compassion toward yourself.

Notice what sensations and feelings arise and continue to send kindness inward.

5. After directing lovingkindness to yourself, repeat the same process with the same intentions for a loved one for whom you care deeply.

May you be at ease.
May you be healthy.
May you be safe.
May you be free.

6. You can continue by bringing other loved ones or more distant friends, pets, or acquaintances into your awareness, generally moving from people who are closest to you and then continuing on to those that are less emotionally close. Eventually, you might even bring people into mind who you find challenging–family members, co-workers, politicians, etc.

Throughout this process, feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, etc. may arise. Allow whatever feelings come up to be there and then draw yourself back to the essence of lovingkindness.

With greater lovingkindness, we repair the relationships of the world and unfold greater ease in our minds.

P.S. If you want to learn more techniques to cultivate self-love and live in Chicago, you might check out my Rewriting Your Self-Contracts workshop on June 17th. This has been one of my most popular workshops and it typically sells out fast.

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