One very popular form of meditation is “lovingkindness,” a traditional, centuries-old practice also known as love and compassion meditation or, as per the original term, metta meditation. The word metta comes from an ancient Indian language called Pali. In this kind of practice, meditators focus on sending wishes of love, well-being, gratitude and compassion out into the world. Often they will choose a specific person or group of people—or animals—and wish them well with words such as, “May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe, may your mind be at ease.” The words can be spoken out loud, chanted, or imagined in silence. The same wishes can also be directed towards oneself. This form of focused meditation is often presented as guided practice. A regular metta practice increases the meditator’s feelings of compassion and benevolence towards others, as well as their sense of connectedness.
Recent studies have shown that plain old sitting meditation with a focus on the breath or physical sensations—as practiced during mindfulness for example—may increase practitioners’ feelings of benevolence and connectedness as well.
To understand how love and compassion meditation fits into the various types of meditation available, we recommend our free ebook Getting the Most out of Meditation.