What metta isn’t

flowersThere are many myths and misunderstandings about metta, or lovingkindness.

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.

It’s possible for us to confuse metta with other emotions.

It’s also possible for us to think that since metta is part of a spiritual path it must be something very exalted and distant, and not something that we’ve ever experienced.

Here are some explanations of what metta is not:

  • Metta isn’t the same thing as feeling good, although when we feel metta we do feel more complete, and usually feel more joyful and happy. But it’s possible to feel good and for that not to be metta. We can feel good, but be rather selfish and inconsiderate, for example. Metta has a quality of caring about others.
  • Metta isn’t self-sacrifice. A metta-full individual is not someone who always puts others before themselves. Metta has a quality of appreciation, and we need to learn to appreciate ourselves as well as others.
  • Metta isn’t something unknown. We all experience Metta. 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 Metta.
  • Metta isn’t denying your experience. To practice Metta doesn’t mean “being nice” in a false way. It means that even if you don’t like someone, you can still have their welfare at heart.
  • Metta isn’t all or nothing. Metta exists in degrees, and can be expressed in such simple ways as simple as politeness and courtesy.

5 Comments. Leave new

It all sounds pretty confusing to a newcomer like myself. I guess I need to contemplate more what it is to be kind to others and to myself and what it would all mean…

May I ask you a question about all of this? Could you tell me about your personal experience with beginning a practise cultivating metta and meditating? I’m interested to learn but I’m not sure if I’ll be doing it right, if you know what I mean. It looks kind of difficult and like it would be easy to get the wrong ideas about!


Hi Alison,

This is a huge and very open question! I could fill pages and pages writing about my personal experiences of cultivating metta. In fact I already have: this entire section of the site is a summary of much of what I’ve learned through my practice. But the most important thing is that the practice works. I’ve gone from being a very bad-tempered, irritable, and very critical person to someone who’s much mellower. We’re always going to have wrong ideas about metta, especially at the start, but it’s through practice that those ideas are exposed and corrected. I’d suggest just getting started!

All the best,


Okay, so we all go through getting confused ideas about metta? I guess if we’re inexperienced, the practise itself would help reveal where we’re getting confused or have the wrong idea, is that right? Its amazing how I’ve often tried to make an effort to BE less critical when I’m really just being silently critical, so I guess inwardly attempting to cultivate positive states sounds like a good idea. I like what you said about not denying your experience because it points out where I’ve been back to front… I always thought it was about trying to MAKE myself feel or think a certain “better” way when denying my experiences probably just leaves me divided and confused. As for meditating, I’m at a bit of a loss where to start… Are there like progressive stages you would suggest (or stages that build upon and help each other), like starting with breathing then going on to lovingkindness or something like that? I keep just trying exercises at random times without any sense of how long I’m doing them or how I’m progressing…

Thanks for all your help. :)


Hi Alison,

It sounds like you’re experiencing some important changes in your understanding, which is good. As for the practicalities, this entire section of our website is a step-by-step guide to lovingkindness meditation. If you look at the left side bar you’ll see a bunch of links saying things like “Stage One” and “Stage Two.” I’d suggest starting at the beginning and working your way through the practice. We also have guided meditations in our online store, if you’d like to help support the work we do.

Metta: The Practice of Loving Kindness through daily life &meditation — Water :: Earth :: Wind :: Fire
January 21, 2011 4:16 am

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