Talks and Meditations
March 20, 2022, Anne V Muhlethaler

Mettā Meditation

‘Love is the bridge between you and everything else.’ - Rumi

While we often think of meditation as an individual practice – going inward to cultivate awareness, putting our attention on what is occurring in the present moment – the hardest thing is often to do this with an attitude of kindness, curiosity and non-judgement. 

You may notice, when you sit and close your eyes, that your inner monologue is sometimes turbulent, and the tone of that inner voice can also be harsh. 

While mindfulness meditation is a way to cultivate a wise mind, it’s not enough to bring us to live into our deepest potential of well-being. That’s why many teachers often like to use the metaphor of the two wings of mindfulness, which are wisdom (or insights) and compassion practices.

The first wing, wisdom, we cultivate by practicing mindfulness meditation. We get intimate with ourselves. We get to know our experience, inside and out. From this place of clear awareness arise insights. 

But a bird cannot fly with one wing.

Similarly, a wise mind doesn’t serve us if we don’t know how to live relationally with ourselves and others.

Therefore the second wing, the loving kindness* and compassion practices, is there to teach us just that by inviting us to look inwards and outwards and to plant seeds that are fertilised by the soil that is a wise mind. 

So we need to cultivate both mindfulness and Mettā, wisdom and compassion. For a life well lived, we need both wings.

Some teachers refer to loving kindness as ‘connection practice’, which in my mind actually reflects the true benefit of Mettā meditation. That feeling of connection brought up by Loving Kindness is said to be the starting point to reach the other three jewels that Buddhists call the Four Heavenly Abodes, or Brahmaviharas in Sanskrit, opening the door to compassion, joy and equanimity. 

Thich Nhat Hanh, the renowned zen master, author and activist, preferred to translate Mettā as Love (but don’t think romantic love, of course). In his book, ‘Teachings on Love,’ he firmly affirms: 

‘Love meditation is not wishful thinking. It is an authentic practice. Looking deeply, you radiate the energy of mindfulness onto the object of your meditation and illuminate it. True seeing always gives rise to true love.’

So I invite you to practice with this 30 min Mettā or Loving Kindness guided meditation, which I recorded live on Zoom a few weeks ago. 

And I leave you to ponder on these words by the mystic poet Rumi:

‘Love is the bridge between you and everything else.’

*from Sanskrit ‘maitri’ and ‘mettā’ in Pali – translated as love, benevolence, friendliness and loving kindness