Using memories

Ways of cultivating metta


Again, let’s say we’re cultivating metta towards ourselves (i.e. we’re doing the first stage of the meditation practice), establishing a good, healthy, positive self-regard as a basis for loving others.

As you sit in meditation, recall a time when you felt good about yourself. You may have just been in a very good mood for no apparent reason. Or you might have just scored a significant achievement.

Recall every detail of that time. The more vivid the experience, the more likely it is that you will recapture the emotions that you experienced then.

Recall what you were wearing, the things you saw, how you held your body, any scents that you smelled, the things people were saying.

Remember the details: the texture of your clothing, the brightness of the colors you saw, tones of voice.

The more vivid your recollection, the easier it will be to re-experience the emotions you had that day.

If in your meditation practice you can tap into your memories in this way you’ll help bring about the arising of positive emotion generally and of metta specifically.

6 Comments. Leave new

  • You described in “Using words or phrases” a rhythm of saying the phrases on an in-breath and then being simply aware on the next 1.5 breaths of one’s emotions. Is there some kind of similar process for using memories, creative imagination, or bodily awareness? For example, thinking of a memory for one in-breath and then contemplating the feeling for . . .?

    • No, there’s nothing as formal as that. Words are naturally very short-lived (you hear them, then they’re gone), and also because speech involves the breathing it’s natural to time verbal thoughts so that they are synchronized with the breathing. Visual images or memories are more stable and long-lived, and they’re less clearly (if at all) related to the breathing. When you call to mind an image, just notice how it affects how you feel. You may want to “loop” an image or memory, or to come up with variations, so that you can keep them going. Of you may find that once you’ve evoked a feeling of kindness using an image you can move on to using the traditional phrases, without any imagery.

  • How do you incorporate the memories into the breathing and non-thinking aspects?

    Thanks. Appreciate your many wise comments.

  • I have a very difficult time recalling a time when I felt good about myself. Is that because I don’t feel I’m worth it or because I need to peel off more of the bad stuff?

    • It’s been found that when people are, for example, depressed, they have difficulty accessing pleasant memories. Even if you’re not depressed but, say, are feeling a bit self-critical or emotionally below par, there can be the same difficulty in recalling pleasant experiences from the past. One therapeutic method actually involves using a mnemonic technique so that people can create a mental “list” of positive experiences and call them to mind when depression starts to set in.

      Anyway, you might want just to think about times you felt at ease with yourself — times you were happy. Those could include times that you felt warm and loving toward others, because at those moments we lose our self-obsession and have more of a sense of ease.


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