Balancing the metta & mindfulness meditations

flowerI remember reading some years ago about a study on self-awareness and self-esteem. This study showed that there are many people who have a high opinion of themselves and who think that most other people like and admire them and think that they’re good at the things they do. The problem is that they are generally wrong, and have a completely distorted view of themselves and wrongly think that others like them. They have self-metta (lovingkindness towards themselves) but little self-awareness.

The study also showed that many people have a very good understanding of themselves and an accurate picture of what others think of them. But they don’t like themselves. They have self-awareness but little self-metta!

Most people sit into one of these two categories. So is it possible for us to have self-awareness and self-metta at the same time? I know that in fact that is possible, and that we can achieve this by cultivating both lovingkindness and mindfulness through meditation.

Both of the main meditation practices that we have on this site (mindfulness of breathing and metta bhavana) complement each other.

We need mindfulness in order to be able to develop Metta more effectively, and the emotional positivity we develop in the Metta Bhavana practice helps us to be more engaged and productive in the mindfulness of breathing practice.

I like to alternate these practices, and I think that’s a good thing to do. Some of my students practice the Mindfulness of Breathing in the morning, and the Metta Bhavana in the evening. That seems to work very well. So does doing the practices on alternate days.

Of course, you may well go through phases in your life when it’s more appropriate to do one or other of these practices. If you’ve been very distracted then it might make more sense to do the Mindfulness of Breathing more often. Or if you’re feeling emotionally vulnerable or you’ve been getting into bad moods then it might be best to concentrate on the Metta Bhavana for a while.

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