The Loving Kindness Meditation for the Holidays

by Monica Ross

There is a meditation that I came across once in a church service here in Austin—The First Unitarian Universalist Church on Grover Ave. where Rev. Meg Barnhouse is senior minister.  I love Meg’s style of ministering with her emphasis on humor. 

It surprises me that the Metta Meditation or Lovingkindness Meditation is not one that I had come across before especially with all that time that I lived out in California and read about Eastern religion and philosophy. 

But then I sometimes catch myself saying that about other things, as if living in California one is supposed to get exposed to all there is that is alternative, enlightening, and well Buddhist or Eastern oriented.  It's built sometimes as some kind of training or testing ground for tuning out and tuning in and all things experiential.

I guess I got in and of there with what I was able to.  Or maybe this meditation is one of things I did come across and just don’t remember coming across in all that time, but at any rate, it’s now one of my favorites. 

You can find a link to it here with the extended guided practice of it. 

And here is the gist of the recitation.  It starts with “May I” and then moves to 1. A person with whom you feel unconditional love 2. A person for whom you feel neutral 3.  A person for whom you have hostile feelings towards 4. Then it extends to everyone and everything else

May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger. May I be safe and protected.

May I be free of mental suffering or distress.

May I be happy.

May I be free of physical pain and suffering.

May I be healthy and strong.

May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.

What I love about this meditation and what I feel every time I sit and practice it is immediate peace of mind.  I feel a kind of a letting go of things and an acceptance of what is.  But it’s also a wish, an intention, a hope that gets to be expressed for others. 

At the end of the day it’s also a way of re centering—that despite all the miscommunications, misperceptions, mistakes we or others make in life, that at base these are the things that I hope for myself, for the person I love, for the person I feel neutral about, for the person with whom I feel hostile or irritated towards, and for everyone and everything really.

There’s not always the time or opportunity or maybe even the need? in life to go to these individual people directly for whom we have all of these feelings.  When there is that time and opportunity, great take advantage of it. 

In terms of repair there are so many people who go back to those they love and ask for it and for whatever reason, the repair never happens.  I mentioned in another post Judith Viorst's book Necesssary Losses which also deals with this topic.

I've dealt with this myself and it's sometimes painful to sit with others as they go through the dealing with it.

But there is something in the opening of your heart to this way of being and allowing the space for the time and opportunity to happen for the repair and to extend this intention to perhaps a someday face to face meeting, whether it materializes or not.

Why do this?  Why set this intention? And why set it even for the people with whom we truly have let of of and have no goal of reunification?

I had a stepfather from the age of about 6 to the time that I left for college.  I think that he attempted to do the best he could as a father for the time that he parented myself and my two younger siblings. 

But what ended up happening after I left for college and when both of my younger siblings were still in middle school is that he left. 

He left to start a new family and literally cut all contact with his us former family.  And for the past 20+ years he continues to cut contact with all us.  So here is an example of a person for whom someone could develop hostile feelings or even by this time perhaps neutral and a little numbed feelings, right? 

But the point of the story is...the point of letting go is...that we do this for ourselves not for the people who have left.

And that’s maybe why with this meditation it starts with “I.”  It’s a kind of a “May I” and by extension because I care for and value myself so highly “May everyone else.”

Maybe I’m thinking about this now because the holidays are coming up and they’re such a hard time for so many for some of the same reasons.  Let’s keep our focus on that maybe, on good intentions, on well wishes for the well being of others? 

Not so much for others although there is that, but also for ourselves.