As yogis, we often hear that there are eight limbs in yoga, but many of us never really learn what those eight limbs are. You hear random, seemingly nonsensical Sanskrit terms being thrown around: “Prana-what?” Sound familiar to anyone? Perhaps it’s not surprising that meditation is one of the eight limbs, but I certainly have never been the meditation type. Sure, I’m fascinated by the concept of sitting with candles and beads draped everywhere and bringing the focus inward, but I never connected with the peacefulness that people attach to meditation. I would dabble in it here and there with basic 5-minute how-to videos and would finish feeling a little less scrambled–but nothing life changing. Meditation never really did much for me. I know, I’m a bad yogi. That is, until I tried a different form of meditation: Metta Meditation.
Different kind of meditation, you say? This was news to me, too. I wrongly assumed that all meditation is the same (what a classic example of avidya, Yoga’s term to represent a false truth). Focusing on the sounds in the room and counting my breaths never took me to a place of self-reflection. It simply made me aware of the car zooming by outside and feel a little light-headed breathing in a particular way.
Metta Meditation, on the other hand, much like a mantra, supplies the dristi (otherwise known as the focus) in the form of the phrase, “May I be happy. May I be at peace. May I be at ease. May I be free from suffering.” Unlike a mantra, in my opinion (let’s remember I’m not a meditation guru here), the Metta Meditation is more personal. It can be directed at yourself for your own nurturing or directed towards another–whether that’s family, friends, someone you haven’t seen in years, or even an enemy.
Send peace and happiness to an enemy? Not typically my reaction to such a person. The very first time I was introduced to Metta Meditation, my teacher led us into the practice softly repeating, “May I be happy. May I be at peace. May I be at ease. May I be free from suffering. May I be happy. May I be at peace. May I be at ease. May I be free from suff–,” and the tears were suddenly flowing out from under my closed eyelids. I was no longer wishing for my own happiness but for the happiness of a friend who turned into a stranger. I had long ago moved past the hurt and had even forgiven the person, but these flowing silent tears seemed to represent my mind and body physically flushing out the pain as a symbol that it’s time to finally heal from those traumas.
I instantly withdrew from these jarring emotions blinking my eyelids open, wiping away the tears and focusing on anything other than my teacher’s words. If anyone has ever peeked during a meditation practice you know how uncomfortable it is to have your eyes open in a dark room full of people doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing and keeping their eyes shut–guilt trip to the max. Regardless of the guilt, it was better than having to return to the state of vulnerability I was thrown into every time I tried to close my eyes again for that practice. So I sat with my damp eyes directed at my crossed legs and tried with all my might to take myself as far away from that first Metta Meditation practice as I could get.
It was uncomfortable. Really, really dreadfully uncomfortable to be faced with all the emotions that I had buried away and labeled as “dealt with.” Out of nowhere, they were in my face, demanding my attention, and all I wanted to do was run from them. To keep it short, let’s just say there was an onslaught of emotions and self-realizations. What this showed me though, was the importance of self-reflection. True self-reflection. Not merely the reflection you want to see, but the ability to be able to assess and more importantly accept your true state of being. We all have expectations for ourselves that we want to live up to, but the progress is made once you see yourself for who you are and appreciate the characteristics that you once saw as weaknesses as simply being part of you. With a true self-reflection, we are able to know where our real work lays and put our efforts toward actions within our practice and daily lives that support that.
Since that initial experience, I’ve come to love Metta Meditation, and I no longer want to flee the room when I meditate. Sure, sensitive topics still float to the forefront of my mind, but Metta Meditation allows me to focus on the positive aspects of the experience instead of the negative ones. And who doesn’t want happy memories, right?
Have you tried Metta Meditation?
Also by Megan: 8 Ways to Use Yoga Props at Home
5 Most Effective Ways to Beat Boredom
Related: 7 Reasons Meditation Is Easy
Get more like this–sign up for our newsletter for exclusive inspirational content!
Photo: María Victoria Heredia Reyes via Unsplash