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.

6 Comments. Leave new

  • Thank you so much Bodhipaksa, it helped a lot.
    I read your other responses on a different topic and was impressed by your patience and your respectful treatment of people.

  • Hello
    I just wanted to ask. I don’t know why I feel that Meta meditation is not as good as other types of meditation. Is Meta meditation as effective as other kinds of meditations?
    It seems so simple, so I wonder if it’s as powerful and could also lead to enlightenment like other meditations?

    Kind Regards

    • Hi, Eva.

      Metta meditation is very powerful and transformative. It’s been studied by a number of researchers and found to have health benefits, to make us happier, and, of course, to make us kinder and more compassionate. And according to the Buddha it leads to Awakening. I’d say in fact that it’s indispensable.

      All the best,

  • Thank you for this. I have a question. Can you mix the meditations in one meditation. For example doing mindfulness of breathing for 5 minutes then shift to a 5 minute Metta meditation? I’ve been doing this, I find the first calms my mind then I do the Metta. Wondering your thoughts on this. Thanks.

  • Thank you for your clear posts. About 10 years ago, I was introduced to mindfulness based meditation practices, and benefited a lot.

    However, I quickly found that I was not actually dealing with the emotions and feelings that were arising. They needed to be met, but the mindfulness practice allowed me to return to a space of contentment – at least on the surface. That ‘worked’ for a few years, but I was neglecting the truly human side of me.

    I was sacrificing my humanity for my divinity.

    I was then introduced to lovingkindness type of meditation – (as you know) an approach to meditation where emotions and feelings, more generally energies, are met with attention and care, such as like a parent to a child. This was a tremendous form of meditation for me. The kindness I could cultivate towards myself was so nourishing. And the effect rippled to those around me.

    But after a few years, I found that I could benefit from both the mindfulness and loving kindness meditations and I am now incorporating them both.

    It has taken me many years, trial and error, to come to that knowledge – that both meditations have a place in supporting my journey. I wish I had found your website before as it is so reassuring, and satisfying to read your article about balancing both types of meditations.

    I have just been on a TM course, and the trainer (30 years experience) kept stating that no other meditation practice was necessary (TM is essentially a mindfulness meditation with a mantra, leading to, possibly, a state of awaring awareness. But a balance between mindfulness and lovingkindness is necessary for a healthy approach to meditation. Interestingly, I felt that he greatly lacked emotional sensitivity and warmth…


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