by Anna Peterson Macsalka
Loving-kindness, or metta, is the practice of unconditional love. Pierre Corneille said “self-love is the source of all our other loves.” Love for yourself and all beings which can strengthen the connection with others, offer a sense of purpose, increase joy, and can lighten the load of stress and anxiety in the present moment. No uncomfortable side effects, I promise.
There are three steps that I take when practicing loving-kindness.
Step 1: Put your own oxygen mask on first!
Every day I find time to say out loud or to myself, “may I have love, may I have wellness, may I have joy, may I have peace.” I usually say it a few times so I believe it—and every now and then I let the beloved Stuart Smalley (circa SNL 1991) pop in to say “and gosh darn it, people like you!” Without the foundation of loving yourself, anything you build will lack longevity, clarity, and authenticity.
Step 2: Baby steps.
Next I’ll open it up to my family and friends. I’ll give thanks for them then repeat the same phrases with them in mind. “May they have love, may they have wellness, may they have joy, may they peace.”
Step 3: Go big!
Now it’s time to expand the horizon. Bring to mind all beings everywhere. It can help to visualize this as wrapping the globe or universe in a big blanket of your well wishes. “May all beings have love, may all beings have wellness, may all beings have joy, may all beings have peace.”
We can only control the present moment. If we set our worries and regrets aside to grant ourselves and others peace through love, it’s hard to find a downside. The more positivity and compassion we can send out, the less suffocating negative experiences will feel. Try committing 5 min every day for two weeks to a loving kindness practice and see if it changes your human experience like it has for me. Well wishes.