Introduction to lovingkindness meditation

lovingkindness introduction

The “metta bhavana” is a meditation practice for cultivating kindness.

The Pali word “metta” is commonly translated as “lovingkindness,” but the simple and familiar word “kindness” offers us a better way to understand what metta is.

“Bhavana” means “producing, dwelling on something, putting one’s thoughts to, or developing by means of thought or meditation.”

And so “metta bhavana” is “developing kindness through meditation.”

If this is a practice you haven’t tried, read on through this and the associated pages for a step-by-step guide. If it’s a practice you’ve tried and found difficult, you might want to read this article first: Seven Tips for People Who Struggle With Lovingkindness Practice.

If you want to get a quick sense of what this practice is like, try this five minute meditation to get started. Afterward you can continue reading this page for more background information on the practice, or you can get started on the first stage of this five-stage meditation.

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The metta bhavana meditation is one of the most ancient forms of Buddhist practice, one that has been passed down in an unbroken line for over 2,500 years. In fact we know that some form of this practice pre-dates the Buddha, because in at least one place in the early scriptures he contrasts how we understands the practice with how non-Buddhist teachers approach it.

You know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of kindness. You know what it’s like to be kind. So what we’re cultivating in this practice isn’t anything strange, unknown, or other-worldly. It’s something you’re familiar with, because we all are kind sometimes. By doing the metta bhavana practice we’re training ourselves to be kinder than we usually are, more often than we usually are, in circumstances where we might not usually find ourselves being kind.

We’re often taught as children that we should be kind and love others. Religious teachings say, for example, that we should “love others as ourselves.” But how do we learn to love others? What does it mean to love others? Does being more loving make us naive, or lead to us neglecting our own needs? And what happens if we don’t particularly like, let alone love, ourselves?

Lovingkindness meditation practice is the practical means by which we learn to cultivate kindness toward ourselves and others. To be kind to someone starts with recognizing empathetically that they are a feeling being, that their happiness and unhappiness are as real, vivid, and important to them as our own are to us. Once we’ve realized that, we don’t want to act in ways that hurt them unnecessarily. In fact we want them to be happy. We want them to feel valued. We want them to feel that they matter, and that their well-being matters.

Metta bhavana is part of a series of four practices, called the brahmaviharas (literally “abiding in the best or highest mental states”). This term comprises:

  • Kindness, or metta (valuing and supporting others’ sense of well-being)
  • Compassion or karuna (the desire to help others who are suffering)
  • Appreciative joy, or mudita (appreciating the positive qualities others have that bring them peace and happiness)
  • Equanimity, or upekkha (patient acceptance of both our own and others’ joy and suffering)

The metta bhavana is the foundation practice for this series of meditations.

The practice, leading as it does to the realization of compassion, is central to Buddhism, to the extent that the Dalai Lama has said “My religion is kindness.” While this statement may appear almost platitudinous, it’s actually indicative of something profound about spiritual practice.

As Buddhaghosa, a Buddhist teacher who lived 1,500 years ago, said, having anger and resentment toward others is like picking up a hot coal to throw at them. You might hurt them but you’ll certainly hurt yourself. Much of our unhappiness comes from the desire to be happy at the expense of others. It’s really very ironic that in grasping after happiness in this way we end up causing ourselves pain.

Buddhism teaches, and experience shows, that happiness comes from empathizing with others and from seeing their well-being and their suffering as being important to them as our own is to us. Happiness comes from connectedness and from caring.

It’s not that becoming kind we set aside our own needs and become martyrs in the popular sense of the word. In fact the opposite is the case. Before we can recognize that others are feeling beings whose happiness and unhappiness are important to them, we have to recognize that we are feeling beings whose happiness and unhappiness are important to us. We have to learn to empathize with ourselves first.

This is where kindness begins — with self empathy. If you don’t feel that you have much empathy for yourself, that’s okay. That’s just where you’re starting from. The metta bhavana meditation practice helps us to take our own well-being seriously as well. It helps us to see that we matter and that our well-being matters. It teaches us to value ourselves.

Also, however, cultivating kindness helps us to recognize that one of our needs is to help others meet their own needs. In meeting our need to help others meet their needs we find that we become happier.

Realizing this and working it out in our lives through the practice of kindness is a major part of Buddhist practice. In fact we could say, as the Dalai Lama implies, that developing a sense of connectedness with others and overcoming selfishness is the essence of, the spiritual path. This is why the Buddha talked about the act of developing kind and supportive relationships with others as being “the whole of the spiritual life.”

What This Practice Does

Since “bhavana” means “cultivating” or “developing,” and “metta” is a word that means “kindness,” metta bhavana is a meditation practice where we actively cultivate kindness towards ourselves and others.

This meditation practice helps us to bring more harmony into our relationship with others, so that we deepen our connections with our friends and loved ones, are more empathetic toward strangers, and experience fewer conflicts and resolve existing difficulties with those we ordinarily clash with.

It helps us to empathize more, and to be more considerate, kind, and forgiving. We can also learn to appreciate others more, concentrating more on their positive qualities and less on their faults. We learn to be more patient, understanding that all people have their own difficulties, and that the behavior we find difficult in them is often them responding to their own pain.

We also cultivate kindness towards ourselves, so that we experience less internal conflict, and learn to appreciate ourselves more. This is a particularly important aspect of the practice. It’s traditionally held that we all cherish ourselves, and that what we need to do is to expand our love from ourselves to others. For example in the Buddhist text, the Udana, we read:

Searching all directions
with one’s awareness,
one finds no one dearer
than oneself.
In the same way, others
are fiercely dear to themselves.
So one should not hurt others
if one loves oneself.

And yet many of us in the west have been brought up to hate ourselves. We don’t thoroughly hate ourselves, of course. In fact we tend to treat ourselves very well! In fact the Buddha talked about this when he said:

Even though they may say, ‘We aren’t dear to ourselves,’ still they are dear to themselves. Why is that? Of their own accord, they act toward themselves as a dear one would act toward a dear one; thus they are dear to themselves.

We do actually spend a lot of time taking care of ourselves — we buy our favorite snacks and treat ourselves to our favorite TV shows, for example — but we tend to focus on aspects of ourselves we don’t like, and we ignore the care and kindness we show ourselves. Ignoring and failing to see our own self-kindness, we believe it doesn’t exist, and are aware only of the unkind words we direct at ourselves.

Lovingkindness practice helps us to feel more positive, accepting, kind, and patient toward ourselves, in order that we can be more compassionate and loving toward others.

An Outline of the Metta Bhavana Practice

In the Metta Bhavana practice we’re cultivating lovingkindness, or simply kindness.

It would be ideal if we could be kind all the time. That’s unlikely to happen, even if we do a lot of meditation. But there’s no need to let the perfect become the enemy of the good, and not make efforts to cultivate kindness because we’ll likely never do it perfectly.

Any degree of kindness that we develop is going to help us be happier more fulfilled human beings. Any degree of kindness we develop is going to help others feel better as they go through life. We don’t have to be perfect.

With practice it’s possible for us to change ourselves substantially. A friend of mine started meditating because he saw a very crabby employee become more relaxed, approachable, and friendly. He asked someone discretely, “Helen’s changed. Is she on medication?” He was surprised to hear that she was actually on meditation instead, because as far as he was concerned meditation was a bunch of hippy nonsense. And for myself, I used to be an incredibly critical and bad-tempered person. I’m much mellower now.

The meditation practice is in five stages. We cultivate kindness toward, in turn:

  1. Ourselves
  2. A friend
  3. A “neutral” person or relative stranger — someone we don’t have any strong feelings for
  4. A “difficult” person — someone we have conflicts with or feelings of ill will towards
  5. Everyone — which means not that we literally have kindness for every individual being in the universe, but that we have a general attitude of kindness, so that anyone we think of or meet, we encounter them in a kind way

The middle three stages are progressively more challenging. It’s easy to feel kind toward a friend. It’s a little harder to overcome our indifference to people we don’t know, and to actually value them as individuals. It’s much harder to overcome hostility to someone we have conflict with.

We’ll learn these stages one at a time. We suggest that you practice one stage for a while before moving on to the others.

Cultivating Kindness

The idea of cultivating kindness in meditation might strike some of us as being a bit odd: after all, don’t emotions “just happen”? It often seems like they well up inside of ourselves unbidden, and come and go like the weather.

A lot of the language we use to talk about emotions suggests a lack of control. For example, we “fall” in love, or we are “overcome” with anger, or we feel “depressed” (who’s doing the depressing?), or we feel “overburdened” with stress, or people “make” us annoyed.

From a Buddhist point of view it is not the case that emotions “just happen”. Emotions are habits, and are actively created. It seems like they have a life of their own because we aren’t conscious of exactly how we create them. If we can bring more awareness into our emotional life then we can cultivate the emotions we want to experience (those that make us and others happy), and discourage the arising of those we don’t want (those that make us unhappy and generate conflict with others).

Buddhist meditation encourages us to take responsibility for our emotional states. However the word “emotion” doesn’t have a precise equivalent in traditional Buddhist terms. The two closest terms are “vedana,” which means “feeling” and “cetana,” which means “volition.”

A feeling is an internally generated sensation in the body, which may be pleasant or unpleasant. (Sometimes we don’t feel anything, and this is traditionally termed a “neutral” feeling.) The feeling of your heart sinking when you’re disappointed, the pleasant warm glow you feel when you admire someone, a tight knot in the belly when you’re anxious, or the ache you experience when you’re empathizing with someone’s distress are all forms of feelings. They’re sensations, and their purpose is to alert us when we’ve perceived a potential threat or a potential benefit.

Volitions, or cetanas, are active responses to those feelings. A volition has an aim. Anger is a volition, for example. Anger generally wants to break through some barrier. Kindness (metta) is a volition, because it’s the desire to support someone’s wellbeing. Although kindness (and any other volition) has feelings associated with it, it’s essentially a volition, not a feeling.

When I use the word “emotion” here I’m restricting its meaning to cover volitions. The word “emotion” in fact implies movement (“motion”) out from our being (signified by the e- prefix).

We cultivate emotions all the time. An example of how we unconsciously generate emotions is this: imagine you’re with a group of people, and you get to talking about all the things that are wrong with the world — hatred, war, intolerance, child-abuse, pollution etc. As the conversation goes on, and we get more and more involved, what happens? The chances are that we get angry, or depressed, or feel self-righteous. By focusing on things that anger or depress you (without creatively trying to see what you can actually do about these things), you cultivate these emotions.

Imagine if you did that with things that encouraged a sense of love and well-being? That’s what the metta bhavana practice is about. It’s a meditation in which we consciously set up the conditions for the arising of kindness.

What Metta Isn’t

There are many common myths and misunderstandings about metta, or kindness.

Simply because the word metta is not found in English — and because there isn’t an exact equivalent — it’s possible to think that the emotion itself is something strange and unusual. The standard translation of “lovingkindness” doesn’t help, because it’s not a word most people use in everyday conversation. I’d certainly never come across the term until I began attending a meditation class. And because the term was unfamiliar to me, I assumed that what I was being asked to cultivate was something new and unusual.

If metta had been explained to me right at the start as being “kindness,” then I would have had a much better understanding of it. Kindness is something we all know.

Nevertheless, it’s possible for us to confuse kindness with other things.

Here are some explanations of what metta is not:

  • Kindness isn’t the same thing as feeling good, although when we are kind we do feel more complete, and usually feel more joyful and happy. But it’s possible to have pleasant feelings and not to be kind. We can feel pleasure, but still be selfish, inconsiderate, or even cruel, for example. Kindness has a quality of caring about others. It’s not just a feeling.
  • Kindness isn’t “being nice.” Yes, when we’re kind, we treat others with sensitivity, respect, and concern for their well-being. But when we’re “being nice” we’re usually trying to be liked. “Niceness” is manipulative. Our motivation when we’re being nice isn’t really promoting other people’s well-being, but to get them to treat us well. A kind person is willing to be direct and critical when that’s what’s needed in order to promote someone’s welfare.
  • “Being nice” often leads to self-sacrifice. A kind individual is not someone who always puts others before themselves. A kind person is prepared to protect their own boundaries because they care about themselves as well as others.
  • Kindness isn’t something unknown. We all experience kindness. Every time you feel pleasure in seeing someone do well, or are patient with someone who’s a bit difficult, or are considerate and ask someone what they think, you’re experiencing kindness. You also know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of kindness (as opposed to someone’s niceness — see above). So in metta bhavana meditation we’re not trying to create something unfamiliar to us. Instead we’re connecting with our own innate kindness, and strengthening it.
  • Kindnes isn’t the same as “liking” someone. Even if you don’t like someone, you can still have their welfare at heart. Someone might be rude to you, for example, but instead of lashing out you can treat them with respect. If you’re being kind in the face of rudeness might tell the other person that their behavior is unacceptable, but you’ll do it in a kind way. You might, for example, bear in mind that the way they’re acting is an expression of their own suffering, and is causing them to suffer.

What Metta Is

  • Kindness begins by recognizing that we are all “feeling beings.” We all can feel joy, peace, and well-being, or unhappiness, distress, and suffering. Given the choice, we will opt for the former over the latter.
  • Kindness recognizes that the most fundamental need any being has is to seek well-being and to be free from suffering.
  • Kindness is a recognition of the most basic solidarity that we have with others, this sharing of a common aspiration to find fulfillment and escape suffering.
  • Kindness recognizes that we’re all doing a difficult thing in being human — that it’s hard to desire happiness when happiness is often elusive, and that it’s hard to want to be free from suffering when suffering can come unexpectedly at any moment, and often does.
  • Kindness recognizes that we’re all fighting a hard battle.
  • Kindness involves empathy. It is the willingness to see the world from another’s point of view: to walk a mile in another person’s shoes.
  • Kindness is wishing others well.
  • Kindness is friendliness, considerateness, and generosity.
  • Kindness is the basis for compassion. When our kind regard meets another’s suffering, then that kindness transforms into compassion — a desire to help others be free from suffering.
  • Kindness is the basis for shared joy. When our kindness meets with another’s happiness or good fortune, then it transmutes into empathetic joy. Kindness also recognizes and celebrates the good in others that brings peace and joy.
  • Kindness, resting on an awareness that we are all feeling beings who prefer happiness to suffering, is potentially boundless. We can potentially have a kind regard for any sentient being, regardless of gender, race, species, or nationality. We can be kind whether or not we like the person we’re being kind to.
  • Kindness is a fulfilling emotional state. It brings joy both to ourselves and to anyone we’re kind to. We are wired to be fulfilled through connection to others.
  • Kindness is the answer to almost every problem the world faces today. Money alone won’t do it. Technology alone won’t do it. Kindness provides the will to make the world a better place.

The Metta Prayer

The Buddha gave a beautiful teaching on the development of lovingkindness called the Metta Sutta (also known as the Karaniya Metta Sutta). I’ve adapted the words of the sutta to formulate them as an aspiration that can be repeated in a prayer-like way.

Prayer — in the sense of a verbal expression of ideals and aspirations — is an important part of many religious traditions, including Buddhism, even though Buddhism has no creator God to whom we can pray.

Through expressing aspirations in words, and especially out loud, we can connect with our beliefs and ideals more deeply, helping us to hold them in our minds as we go about our daily business, and helping us to develop a stronger sense of conviction.

So in order to bring more lovingkindness, or metta, into your life, take a few minutes each day, just after you’ve awakened or perhaps just before you begin work in the morning, to recite the Metta Prayer. You can print out a PDF version and display it or keep it in your planner.

Saying words out loud make them more emotionally real for us, so if it’s possible, say the words out loud; otherwise just say them inwardly.

Read the words slowly and let them sink in so that they become your aspirations. Try sitting for a little while to let the words resonate in your heart and mind. Do this for a period of two weeks and see what difference it makes to your daily attitudes, thoughts, and emotions during that time.

In order that I may be skilled in discerning what is good, in order that I may understand the path to peace,

Let me be able, upright, and straightforward, of good speech, gentle, and free from pride;

Let me be contented, easily satisfied, having few duties, living simply, of controlled senses, prudent, without pride and without attachment to nation, race, or other groups.

Let me not do the slightest thing for which the wise might rebuke me. Instead let me think:

“May all beings be well and safe, may they be at ease.

Whatever living beings there may be, whether moving or standing still, without exception, whether large, great, middling, or small, whether tiny or substantial,

Whether seen or unseen, whether living near or far,

Born or unborn; may all beings be happy.

Let none deceive or despise another anywhere. Let none wish harm to another, in anger or in hate.”

Just as a mother would guard her child, her only child, with her own life, even so let me cultivate a boundless mind for all beings in the world.

Let me cultivate a boundless love for all beings in the world, above, below, and across, unhindered, without ill will or enmity.

Standing, walking, seated, or lying down, free from torpor, let me as far as possible fix my attention on this recollection. This, they say, is the divine life right here.

Translated and adapted by Bodhipaksa from the Pali Metta Sutta.

What the Buddha Said About Kindness

Practitioners, whatever kinds of worldly merit there are, all are not worth one 16th part of the release of mind by universal friendliness; in shining, glowing, beaming & radiance the release of mind by universal friendliness far excels & surpasses them all.
Itivuttaka 27

As a mother even with own life protects her only child, so should one cultivate immeasurable loving-kindness towards all living beings.
The Metta Sutta

He who both day and night takes delight in harmlessness sharing love with all that live, finds enmity with none.
Samyutta Nikaya. I, 208

What are the eleven advantages of Metta ?

  • One sleeps Happy.
  • One wakes Happy.
  • One dreams no evil dreams.
  • One is liked and loved by all human beings.
  • One is liked and loved by all non-human beings too.
  • One is Guarded & Protected by the divine Devas.
  • One cannot be Harmed by Fire, Poison, or Weapons.
  • One swiftly Attains the Concentration of Absorption.
  • One’s appearance becomes Serene, Calm, & Composed.
  • One dies without Confusion, Bewilderment, or Panic.
  • One reappears after death on the Brahma level if one has penetrated to no higher level in this very life.

Anguttara Nikaya XI.16

They may address you in an affectionate way or a harsh way. They may address you in a beneficial way or an unbeneficial way. They may address you with a mind of good-will or with inner hate. In any event, you should train yourselves: ‘Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic to that person’s welfare, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading him with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with him, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will equal to the great earth — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.’ That’s how you should train yourselves.
Majjhima Nikaya 21

When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should direct one’s thoughts to the fact of his being the product of his actions: ‘This venerable one is the doer of his actions, heir of his actions, born of his actions, related by his actions, and is dependent on his actions. Whatever actions he does, for good or for evil, to that will he fall heir.’ Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.
Anguttara Nikaya V.161

I have good will for legless beings,
good will for two-legged beings,
good will for four-legged beings,
good will for many-legged beings.

May legless beings do me no harm.
May two-legged beings do me no harm.
May four-legged beings do me no harm.
May many-legged beings do me no harm.

May all creatures,
all breathing things,
all beings — each and every one —
meet with good fortune.
May none of them come to any evil.
Anguttara Nikaya IV.67

The disciple of the Noble Ones, who in this way is devoid of coveting, devoid of ill will, undeluded, clearly comprehending and mindful, dwells, having pervaded, with a mind of lovingkindness, one quarter; likewise the second; likewise the third; likewise the fourth; so above, below, and across; he dwells, having pervaded because of the existence in it of all living beings, everywhere, the entire world, with the great, exalted, boundless thought of amity that is free of hate or malice.

He lives, having pervaded, with a mind of compassion, one quarter; likewise the second; likewise the third; likewise the fourth; so above, below, and across; he dwells, having pervaded because of the existence in it of all living beings, everywhere, the entire world, with the great, exalted, boundless thought of compassion that is free of hate or malice.

He lives, having pervaded, with a mind of joy, one quarter; likewise the second; likewise the third; likewise the fourth; so above, below, and across; he dwells, having pervaded because of the existence in it of all living beings, everywhere, the entire world, with the great, exalted, boundless thought of gladness that is free of hate or malice.

He lives, having pervaded, with a mind of equanimity, one quarter; likewise the second; likewise the third; likewise the fourth; so above, below, and across; he dwells, having pervaded because of the existence in it of all living beings, everywhere, the entire world, with the great, exalted, boundless thought of equanimity that is free of hate or malice.

Kalama Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya 3.65

“There are these five ways of subduing hatred by which, when hatred arises in a monk, he should wipe it out completely. Which five?

“When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should develop good will for that individual. Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.

“When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should develop compassion for that individual. Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.

“When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should develop equanimity toward that individual. Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.

“When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should pay him no mind & pay him no attention. Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.

“When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should direct one’s thoughts to the fact of his being the product of his actions: ‘This venerable one is the doer of his actions, heir to his actions, born of his actions, related by his actions, and has his actions as his arbitrator. Whatever action he does, for good or for evil, to that will he fall heir.’ Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.

“These are five ways of subduing hatred by which, when hatred arises in a monk, he should wipe it out completely.”

Aghatavinaya Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya, 5.161)

For one who mindfully develops
Boundless loving-kindness
Seeing the destruction of clinging,
The fetters are worn away.

If with an uncorrupted mind
He pervades just one being
With loving kindly thoughts,
He makes some merit thereby.

But a noble one produces
An abundance of merit
By having a compassionate mind
Towards all living beings.

Those royal seers who conquered
The earth crowded with beings
Went about performing sacrifices:
The horse sacrifice, the man sacrifice,
The water rites, the soma sacrifice,
And that called “the Unobstructed.”

But these do not share even a sixteenth part
Of a well cultivated mind of love,
Just as the entire starry host
Is dimmed by the moon’s radiance.

One who does not kill
Nor cause others to kill,
Who does not conquer
Nor cause others to conquer,
Kindly towards all beings —
He has enmity for none.

(Itivuttaka, 1.27)

What’s Next?

If you’ve read a bit about the practice, and maybe tried out the five-minute guided meditation above, you can either learn a bit more about how to work with your emotions or you can start learning the first stage of the metta bhavana practice.

You can also learn more about lovingkindness meditation practice in the following books:

42 Comments. Leave new

  • another reminder to self, work on metta practice:

  • […] More info about Metta and it’s practice can be found HERE […]

  • Hi

    I am looking for a local venue to practise Metta meditation. I have done some meditation before and a couple of weeks in a Buddhist monastery.

    I am based in Farnham, any ideas would be very much appreciated.

    Kind Regards


  • Hi David,

    The closest I could stop was in Woking. It’s a Theravadin group and they almost certainly do the metta bhavana meditation. The Modern Buddha Way (also listed on that page may do so as well — it’s not clear from what I saw of their website.

    Good luck with your search.

  • Hi,

    I am interested in a local meditation class/group practising mindfulnessbreathing meditation. I live in Woldingham, Surrey,


  • Hi Sam,

    I don’t want to sound cheeky or unhelpful, but I live in New Hampshire and Google’s as close to you as it is to me. I’d suggest searching for [Surrey meditation] or [meditation] plus the name of some nearby large towns.

    Happy hunting!

  • Hi
    I teach mindfulness meditation and I’m based near Richmond, Surrey. Email me on if that’s close enough

  • Wonderful site! I teach classes in raising your happiness set point, and we commence each class with a meditation. I will definitely visit often for ongoing insight. Thank you for such a plentiful resource.

  • […] the end of a yoga class, we sometimes call on the words of the Metta (lovingkindness) prayer.  Please take these words into your own heart: “May I be happy.  May […]

  • […] Read our introduction to lovingkindness […]

  • […] What helped to jolt me out of that way of thinking was the practice of Metta Bhavana meditation, or “Loving Kindness.” I started it in my late 20s, sitting in the upstairs of a craftsman bungalow in Seattle, with a […]

  • Hi Bodhipaksa,

    i like to thank you for all the effort you have put into this site. It contains so much valuable information for beginners like me.

    Even though – and i hope you bear with me – I have to admit that some articles (e.g. about wrong posture) where a little discouraging to me. Before i found your site, I already practiced about 4 weeks, following only some basic instructions on samatha meditation. I wasn’t paying much attention to posture and still felt pretty fine. Now things look much more complicated and i’m irritated a little. But i still hope to sort these things out.

    But i wanted to ask another question – and i don’t know if i just missed that information: How should the different kinds of meditation be mixed? I mean, is there a guide like: do 2 days of concentrating on the breath, then 1 day lovingkindness? I guess i already know the answer: Do whatever feels best to you. But still i’m asking, just in case.


  • Hi Mike,

    Irritability is just one of the many things we have to work with. It’s good to meet irritability with patience, as best we can.

    Generally I suggest to people that they alternate practices, unless there’s a felt need to do otherwise. By that I don’t mean that you just “feel like” not doing metta bhavana or mindfulness, but that you genuinely need more metta (because you’re in a bad mood or being very critical, say) or because you need more mindfulness (say because your mind is racing). Too often people find one practice a bit more difficult than the other, and so they end up avoiding it. I don’t think that’s a good idea.

  • Thank you Bodhipaksa, i understand your answer and it makes perfect sense to me. Actually lovingkindness would probably be very helpful in my situation. I think so because i often tend to be a “emotional cold” person (if this is the correct expression in english), being to critical with myself – and as a consequence of that, with others, too. So i started to do some first lovingkindness practice in addition to samatha. But like you mentioned i have some problems.

    Unlike with concentration on the breath i have a hard time to find a meditation object. Since i often seem to have problems really feeling positive emotions in general, it’s even harder in lovingkindness. Somehow i don’t know what to look for, when you say “keep your focus on emotions”. All i can achieve so far are like shivers down my spine when i say to myself “may i be well”/”may i be happy”.

    If you don’t mind i’d very much apreciate any tipp you have for persons like me. To me it’s like the chicken/egg problem: Lovingkindness could probably help me very much, to better feel my emotions. But to do lovingkindnes i first have to feel my emotions…

    Thanks again,

  • Hi Mike,

    I’ve been there, so I know what you’re talking about. There are a couple of ways out of the trap you mention. For one thing, emotionally cold/cool people often aren’t very good at noticing their emotions, and the lovingkindness practice is a way to discover what’s actually going on. Emotions can be subtle things, and we can very often not appreciate them.

    The other thing is that you don’t have to be aware of an actual emotion in order to get started. Being aware of feeling neutral (i.e. not knowing what emotions are present) is enough to be getting on with. If we simply accept the presence of the neutrality, and are patient with ourselves (and acceptance and patience are two positive emotions that can be taken for granted and not fully acknowledged) then we can continue with the metta phrases (“May I be well,” etc) and let them have an effect. They always have an effect, even if we don’t notice it.

    So we can just continue patiently doing this thing and not noticing any effect, but perhaps feeling just a bit more relaxed and friendly in our daily lives, (“for no apparent reason”). Sometimes we don’t even notice any changes in our own feelings, but others say we’re easier to get on with! And then at some stage we start to appreciate more directly that positive emotions are actually happening.

    So I’d suggest just doing starting the practice, being happy to accept that at times you feel rather neural, and just let the practice do its thing. You’ll notice the effects when you’re ready to do so.

  • Hi,

    like you said, i just continued and somehow i already feel an effect. Not sure if it’s because i feel doing something ridiculous. But even if that’s the case, so what? It makes me more happy, i even started to laugh sometimes (actually i love being funny – it only often feels so hard to escape the trap of negative emotions)!

    So i tried to be aware of my scepticism and see it as what it is: not helpful. It would only talk down the happiness which is really happening. I only have to allow and accept it. I hope this is not only a flash in the pan – but again i’m aware of this thought also! So i think i start to understand how awareness can be a very powerful weapon against being trapped in negative thoughts.

    I’ll definitely stay tuned because this seems like being the beginning of an exciting journey.

    Thanks so much,

  • I’m glad to hear it’s working out for you…

  • […] great way to figure out what you need to resolve is Metta Bhavana, also referred to as the lovingkindness meditation. You don’t need candles or incense, nor do […]

  • […] Originally Posted by Jack Do you really say that you love everyone on the planet,from heart? Try it even for just a moment and make it your truth. Even just for a moment. It's actually a very, very natural feeling to feel love and compassion for all fellow humans. Practice metta meditation daily to really make it your truth. It will transform you 'As a mother even with own life protects her only child, so should one cultivate immeasurable loving-kindness towards all living beings.' -The Metta Sutta Introduction to lovingkindness meditation | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation […]

  • mere words – may i/others be well & happy, dont seem to work.
    try practically generating warmth in the heart area. feel the warmth as it grows while u focus on that area – then spread that warmth on u and on others… heart shud feel it.
    focus on feeling metta , not words

    • Hi, Mocowi.

      Words do work well for some people (and for those people there’s nothing “mere” about them) but they may not work for everyone, which is why on this site I also teach visual and kinesthetic methods of evoking a sense of lovingkindness. For some people one of these approaches will work well, while for other people a combination is more useful.

  • […] often falls down around me. I’ve missed out one of the cornerstones. I haven’t done Metta Bhavana […]

  • […] love the idea and process behind the Buddhist Metta Bhavana (lovingkindness) meditation. This video is a beautiful example of a guided Metta […]

  • […] and the intention of the process is to develop a sense of love for the greater world. Wildmind has a fantastic guide on Metta if you’re […]

  • Bodhipaksa thanks for your great contributions.
    Your answers are very helpful.

  • […] have noticed that the Metta meditation has been helping me feel less angry lately so I decided to combine it with some daily yoga and see […]

  • Hi,

    I am interested in integrating both the Loving Kindness mediation with the mindfulness. I am a beginner, and I was wondering any advice you may give me as far as how long I should spend on each stage of the Loving Kindness and how long each meditation should last for (give or take). Thanks

    • Most people do five to ten minute stages for the metta bhavana practice, so that’s 25 to 50 minutes in total. And I generally recommend to people that they do mindfulness of breathing and metta bhavana on alternate days.

  • Dear wildmind,
    i would like to say thank you for this website.Very uplifting.
    I just came from a Monastery in Chithurst,where i learnt how
    to subside the fear with the help of Metta Mantra.
    Shame that not many people in West believe.
    Thanks Buddha

  • Very interesting and helpful site; has the potential to be of immense benefit to those who sincerely desire to learn from it. One small correction: “Bhavana” is a Hindi word (derived from the original Sanskrit) which means a feeling or an emotion.

    • Bhāvanā may well be a Hindi word meaning feeling or emotion, but in this context it’s a Pāli word meaning “cultivation.”

  • […] began with a metta meditation (divine) and facial at kripalu. then traveled home via train (my favorite travel mode) for the rest […]

  • […] is a good thing for us. By varying things occasionally we can avoid getting bored. Consider trying Metta Bhavana (loving-kindness meditation)or a body scan to spice things […]

  • […] and most beneficial practice when I got into meditation. Here’s a beginner metta video. Or, here’s a good written beginner’s guide to metta. Some people prefer Vipassana (insight) meditation. Here’s a beginner’s guide to […]

  • Merennage Nandanadasa. Salgado
    August 5, 2014 1:13 am

    Dear Sir,

    I am very much happy to join with this noble path as my economic environment is very pathetic, I am dreaming when I am escaped this evil shadow and join with this this is order of the world not for me.This is our karma or it is created by invisible hand.please let me know.Thank you.

    yours sincerely,


  • Thank your sir for the amazing works you’ve had done ^^ I’ve been struggling with inner conflict all the time between these two emotions the evil and good, I keep feeding and sowing the both of this emotions resulting to an inner disharmony and turmoil in myself but with your amazing site it helps me massively to resolve this matter. Thank you so much ^^ you are helping hundreds and thousands of people.

  • […] recently affected as a focus for your prayer. If you are not familiar with this prayer, a 5-minute guided introduction can be found at […]

  • Bodhipaksa, all your articles are incredibly insightful and super helpful! I really appreciate the effort <3

  • […] ক) খুদ্দক নিকায়- ইতিবুত্তক, অটঠকথা- ভদন্ত জ্যোতি রক্ষিত ভিক্ষুখ) ব্রহ্মবিহার- জ্যোতি পাল মহাথেরগ)ঘ) […]

  • […] far I have read the first sub-section, Introduction to lovingkindness meditation, which describes what the loving-kindness meditation is (and isn’t!) and the benefits that […]


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