Christians often get weirded out by the topic of meditation. I’m not really sure why. The Bible says to meditate on God’s word day and night (Psalms 1:2). Meditation is a training of the mind, and few things in life have greater significance than the mind. The mind is the vessel with which we love and worship God (Matthew 22:37). Today, I want to share a meditation that was not founded by Christians, but has great application in a Christian context: loving-kindness / metta meditation.
According to Wikipedia, metta, a a word from the Indian Pali language, means benevolence, loving-kindness, friendliness, amity, good will, and active interest in others.
The goal of loving-kindness meditation is to increase our love for, and connection with, other people. Meditation, in general, and this meditation, in particular, have been linked to a number of benefits, including improved health and increased happiness. You can take at look at them in detail on your own time (e.g. health benefits of meditation).
Loving others is foundational on an even deeper level for the Christian–it is the express will of God. We are all familiar with “the golden rule”–do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Bible contains many verses about the necessity of loving other people, including those who have damaged us and those we judge to be unworthy of our love—and a blessing proportionate to the difficulty of doing just that (Matthew 6:14).
Here is a small, but powerful, sampling..
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Matthew 5:43-48
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.1 John 4:7-8
Loving-kindness meditation, when done with the right intentions, can be a deeply Christian discipline.
How to Practice Christian Loving-Kindness/Metta Meditation
It’s simple, and it works like this. You take turns calling people to mind, first someone you love easily and naturally. Maybe your mother, your grandmother, or a close friend. Second, you bring to mind someone you are indifferent toward, maybe an acquaintance or anyone you do not have strong feelings toward. Lastly, you call to mind someone someone you do not love, maybe an enemy, someone who has damaged your life, or maybe someone who rubs you the wrong way for whatever reason.
While thinking about the person, you wish them well. The following are standard given affirmations to think or say aloud while you maintain the person as the focus of your attention.
May you be happy.
May you be well.
May you be in good health.
May you be free from worry.
The idea is to start meditating on someone you love, create a sort of “loving momentum,” and then transfer that same energy to the other two categories of people. Spend however long you like on each person before transitioning to someone else. The longer the better!
You can manipulate the affirmations any way you like. This is an opportunity to get creative and use the language that most awakens love within you. Here are just a few examples that a Christian might use.
May you be blessed.
May you come to know the Lord.
May you experience the love of God.
May the desires of your heart be fulfilled.
This meditation may bring to mind negative experiences, memories, and judgments within us. This is our minds’ way of trying to resolve the differences between our past interpretations of people and situations with our new change of heart. It is a kind of “CD override.” The effect may not happen immediately, depending on how deep our past viewpoint is. To my mind, we should see this tension as evidence that the meditation is working and that healing is in process.
If you are like me, you struggle to love people who have mistreated you or otherwise do not reciprocate your love. This meditation is designed to slowly begin the process of breaking down these barriers in our hearts. Like water on a stone, the effect does not happen in a moment, but the net effect over time is dramatic.
I’m going to be more intentional about practicing this in the days ahead because I know I could be doing a hec of a lot better at loving others.
I’d love to hear your experience down below if you do decide to give this a go.
For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.