Cultivating seeds of emotion

Ways of cultivating metta


To get seeds of metta to grow, we need soil and water. The soil is our awareness: we need to keep our emotions in our awareness in order to cultivate positive emotions. So while in the Mindfulness of Breathing practice our focus is on the physical sensations of the breath, in the Metta Bhavana practice our focus is on our emotions.

An awareness of our emotions helps nourish us so that lovingkindness can flourish. As we stand back from our emotions in meditation — simply observing them — we find that negative emotions begin to subside and that positive emotions begin to flourish.

There’s an intelligence inherent in the aware mind that recognizes that negative emotions are fundamentally unsatisfactory and lead to suffering, and so energy is withdrawn from them. That same intelligence recognizes the fundamentally satisfying and enriching nature of positive emotions such as lovingkindness, and by dwelling upon positive emotions strengthens them.

But we don’t have to simply observe our emotions. We can directly cultivate positive emotion. This leads us to ask, what is the rain? The rain is the variety of methods we can use to encourage the development of the seeds of metta. There are four main methods that I’ve found useful: using words, memories, creative imagination, and body memory.

We’ll look at each of these methods in turn. Some of them will work for you, and some probably won’t. It’s best to try a few methods and see which suit your personality. But make sure you give any method you try time to work. Like seeds germinating in response to water, your emotions may take time to begin unfolding in response to the method you choose.

11 Comments. Leave new

I have been reading a lot about Metta Bhavana here on your site and it is wonderful. Thank you.

I was wondering what is the exact pronunciation of Metta Bhavana? And do you have a suggestion for further pronunciation difficulties? I seem to encounter this problem frequently when reading about Buddhism.


Hi Carollyn,

You can just hover your pointer over the first mention of “metta bhavana” in the article (it’s lightly underlined in blue) and you should see a pop-up with an approximation of the pronunciation.

No, you’re not going crazy — it wasn’t there before!

All the best,


Ha! Thank you, thank you.


I have been practicing the mindfulness of breathing for about a month, and it has been interesting and fulfilling. Today I began reading on the Metta Bhavana practice, and did the guided exercise on that page. It, too, was wonderful. As I develop my practice on a daily basis, should I be moving away from the mindfulness of breathing and into the Metta Bhavana, replacing one practice with the other? Or should I be doing the mindfulness exercise at the beginning of each session and then move to the Metta? There is so much…


Hi Bardo,

The practices are mutually supportive, and I’d suggest alternating them, unless it seems like there’s a good reason for focusing on one practice or the other. In the past, when I used to be very moody, I’d often do much more metta bhavana than mindfulness of breathing for months at a time.


Hi Bodhipaksa,

First I wanted to thank you for your wonderful website with all these information, it is extremely well done. For my part I have been suffering from social anxiety and mild depression for a very long time, so started doing an average 20mn a day meditation for the last 12month. I have been alternating lots of different techniques, more often mindfulness guided meditations. Anyway, my experience has been that on some days I will feel a lot better and it will last for the whole day. But on most days I will feel better for just a few minutes after the meditation and then back to my usual anxious life.
So I have been thinking recently about trying the lovingkindness meditation which I haven’t done much. I am prepared to do 2 x 20mn per day, and my question was just : do you think I should drop the 20mn mindfulness and focus solely on the lovingkindness? Or do both 20mn each every day?
I have been quite frustrated with my progress considering it has been a year, but again I guess when you have suffering from social anxiety for 17 years it does take a while to get over it.
Thanks in advance for your answers,



Hi, Ben.

Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad you find our information helpful.

First of all, I’m very pleased to hear that the effort you’re putting into meditation is having results. It’s great that some days you’re feeling better all day. Even a few minutes of relief is a step in the right direction, and you should bear in mind that there are always going to be ups and downs with your experience.

I generally recommend to people that they alternate mindfulness and metta meditations, because the practices support and enhance each other. If you can meditate twice a day, then I’d suggest doing both. Perhaps you could experiment with alternating which one you do first, to see what pattern is most effective for you.

All the best,


Thanks for the reply and the precious tips :)
Will definitely start alternating which one I do first between mindfulness & lovingkindness.
As I said, I do feel a little disappointed sometime with the speed of my progress but as you mentioned, even a bit of relief every day is a step in the right direction, so will definitely keep practicing.
Thanks again & all the best


Disappointment arises when we are grasping after change. We assume that a certain amount of change should take place in a certain amount of time, and when that doesn’t happen we experience pain. It’s a natural human thing to do. At the same time it’s very counterproductive. More change takes place when we simply accept what’s going on right now, and when we appreciate the change that is happening. Two people can look at the same amount of change. One of them will be depressed and feel like giving up. The other will appreciate the change for what it is and feel joyful and confident. It’s all to do with the attitude we adopt toward our experience.


Hello, Bodhipaksa

Firstly, I want to say thank you so much putting in your time to create such a great library for meditation. This website has given me alot of option on how to deal with myself and all the negativity that has accumulated in my mind.

I have been doing the breath awareness meditation for about 3 weeks about fifteen minutes twice a day. During the meditation I am able to relax and concentrate on the breathing. Also during the meditation I do notice thoughts at sometimes but as soon as i pay attention to them they stop so I can really be aware of them if stop instantaneously. Is this ok? I also want to know what you mean by physical sensation of the breath (does this include movement of the stomach)?

I have also tried the love kindness. Its only been two day and i am trying to cultivate metta towards my self. My question is how long do I have to sit and do the procedure? When I say the “happiness” how long should concentrate on happiness before changing to another word or emotion? Finally how is thinking about happiness and experiencing happiness make me wanna love my self?



Hi, Chaos.

It’s fine if the thinking stops as soon as you pay attention to it. I suspect, though, that if you maintain your awareness for any length of time of the “inner space” where thoughts arise, you’ll start to notice thoughts bubbling up despite your sustained attention.

When I say to pay attention to the “physical sensations of the breath” I really ought to say “physical sensations of the breathing,” because that does include the movements of the abdomen and chest.

Good questions about lovingkindness meditation, by the way. I’m not sure exactly what it is that you’re doing. Are you repeating the “may I be well; may I be happy; may I be free from suffering” phrases (or variants thereof)? If so, then I suggest dropping these phrases into the mind one at a time, with each one separated by perhaps two cycles of the breath. I usually use three such phrases (not always the same ones) and just rotate through them. And it’s not that you’re “thinking about happiness.” Thinking about happiness may well do nothing to make you love yourself. But in saying “may I be well; may I be happy; may I be free from suffering” (etc) you are wishing yourself well, which is the very definition of love. Love is wanting someone (including oneself) to be happy and free from suffering. There may be no overt emotion accompanying the words, but over time they have an effect on our attitudes, thoughts, and emotions.


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