Holbeck College

Metta: loving-kindness meditation

Published 31 December 2020. Written by Leanna Thorpe.

Woman meditating by the sea

The modern concept of mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation. Among all the meditation exercises in the Buddhist tradition, Metta meditation occupies a central place, like training in loving-kindness towards oneself and others.


Metta roughly means ´loving-kindness. While there are different kinds of love - love for our partner or our cat and dog or even for our car or villa, which all have a strong self-interest in them - satiety is a deep and strong desire that it will go well for others and myself, a deep and strong desire that it will go well for everyone.

Metta is free from bondage and does not need anything in return. It comes from an inner abundance, an open heart, and is based on a deep identification with other people and everything that lives and breathes.

Practice makes perfect

When practicing full metta meditation, it is important to start with yourself and what you are feeling at the moment. Even if you only feel a little warmth, it is a good start. The exercise gives results if practiced correctly and carefully. Something you often forget is the attitude you go into meditation with. "Do you have patience with yourself?" "Are you kind in your attitude towards yourself?" 

Actually, meditation is more of an art than a technique. It is more about getting to know yourself, how the mind works, and creating favourable circumstances so that satiety can arise freely. In this way, the process of growing a plant is similar. The plant needs soil, nutrients, water, and sun in the right amounts, to be able to grow and eventually bloom. It needs our care.

Metta meditation method

Metta meditation has five stages here that help you grow metta so that it becomes increasingly universal and ripe. You can do all five or also select for example the first, second, and last - but always the first and last. The main thing is that you cultivate satiety and will for a while expand your loving kindness.


Sit or lie down comfortably and take a moment to land in your body, in yourself. Let yourself relax and become aware of your breathing - let it come and go naturally. Become aware of how you feel in the body, how you feel right now. Permit yourself to experience whatever you feel, whether you are well or a little tired and gray. Let there be space in your heart and mind. Then reflect that you are basically okay. You know that you care about yourself and want it to go well for you. Try to be aware of this.

Another entrance to satiety is to remember what one has received and received from other people. The appreciation and gratitude you then feel make it easier to get into meditation. This meditation is based on the principle that what we give energy and attention will grow. Therefore, if you give energy to your positive and expansive feelings, they will grow. If, on the other hand, you give energy to anger and irritation, then they grow.

The five stages

1. Saturate towards yourself

Be aware of your breathing and listen inwardly, to your heart: how are you? If you do not feel well, you can be aware of it, without having to do anything about it. Then become aware of what is pleasant in your experience. Maybe there is a joy, a pleasure when you give yourself time to be this way. You can then quietly repeat a phrase with a positive message:

  • May everything go well for me!
  • May I be happy!
  • May I be healthy in body and mind!

Let the words sink into your consciousness and then listen for an emotional response. Come back to your breathing for a while and relax.

Be patient and listen sensitively to positive responses and when you feel them, you rest your attention on them - perhaps a feeling of warmth and joy in the heart center or a feeling of light and openness - and give them energy. If the mind wanders away in thoughts or associations, you gently and patiently bring it back to your body, your breathing, your emotions, and what feels positive or expansive in your experience.

If it is difficult for you to feel warmth and appreciation for yourself, and you instead experience irritation or self-contempt, be aware of it but without it devouring you. What do you need to meet this feeling? Have patience. You can trust that the exercise affects over time.

2. Saturate for a person who is easy for you to like:

Then think of a person who is easy to like, it can be a good friend, a partner, a child, or a parent. You may have an inner image of her or him, or remember when you were last seen. Notice how you feel about him / her right now. We often have strong positive feelings towards our loved ones and already thinking about them evokes warmth and appreciation. You can also reflect on all that this person has given you and what it means to you.

Then focus on the positive emotions that have been aroused. Stay with them, come back. You may also think that your friend is somewhere right now and that he or she is breathing - and sharing life with you. You can also repeat one of the phrases:

  • May everything go well for the person!
  • May the person be happy!
  • May the person be healthy in body and mind!

Let this sink in.

3. Saturate towards a person who is neutral for you:

Then think of a neutral person. It is someone you have no strong feelings for, neither positive nor negative. It could be a conductor, someone in your grocery store, the postman, or a colleague. At this stage you have to make a little more effort not to lose interest because there are not so strong emotions - where there are emotions there is interest.

Try to look behind the surface or the facade you encounter and live into that person's life. It is a human being who breathes and who shares the same conditions as you. She also wants to be happy and free from suffering.

  • May everything go well for the person!
  • May the person be happy!
  • May the person be healthy in body and mind!

Return for a moment to your breathing and just sit.

4. Saturate a person who is difficult for you:

Then think of a difficult person. When you think of this person, you immediately want to turn away from it or avoid it. It can be a person you find annoying or annoying. Therefore, notice your response to the person. Acknowledge your irritation or frustration - face the emotions, become aware of them.

Then train yourself to look beyond the difficulty and reflect on the person's positive qualities, which he in all probability also owns. Some people love and love this person. The difficulty you are experiencing may change. You cannot change them, but you can work with your own attitude. It is only natural that problems arise from time to time. For someone else, sometimes you are also a difficult person.

  • May everything go well for the person!
  • May the person be happy!
  • May the person be healthy in body and mind!

Feel the feeling in the body.

5. Saturate in front of all four and then universally:

In the last stage, you think of the three people and yourself at the same time and try to feel full in front of everyone. Be aware of the common preferences you have and try to go beyond them. Then you think of others in your vicinity, acquaintances, and strangers, in front of everyone you cultivate the same feeling of warmth, care, and satiety.

You can either think that you radiate saturation (light or heat) in ever wider circles, or that you include more and more people in your sphere of saturation, or invite them. Here you also think of animals, of all living beings, who all want to live and be happy.

  • May everything go well for everyone!
  • May everyone be happy!
  • May everyone be healthy in body and mind!


Take the time to just sit for a while and digest the meditation. Sit/lie down for a while and let go of conscious effort.

Then try to find ways to give natural expression to the appreciation, care, and warmth you have developed in saturated meditation. Try to be aware of your reactions to your fellow human beings and practice starting from an attitude of appreciation and seeing yourself in a positive relationship with other people.

Good luck!