Opening the Heart with Metta
Excerpted from Subtle Energy: Awakening to the Unseen Forces in Our Lives by William Collinge, Ph.D., Warner Books, Inc., 1998  

"I did a lot of metta when I went on my vacation to Santa Fe to visit my cousin and her husband. I would sit and do metta for a while each morning. I had expected that I'd get bored, but the longer I did it the more people came into my awareness that I wanted to include," states Penny, who had recently taken a class on a form of meditation called metta.  

This is a Buddhist practice in which you repeat intentions of good will toward yourself, others and the world at large. It bridges meditation and chanting, and its power comes from the repetition which serves to focus the mind and intention on a central thought or theme, in effect shutting out distracting thoughts and giving your full mental energy to the intention at hand.  

"On my own, I found myself wanting to include people I'd had conflicts and difficulties with, including my father with whom I've always had a very painful relationship. The more I did it the more love I felt   my heart felt more and more expansive, which became a wonderfully pleasurable experience.  

"The feeling would carry over into my day, and I would look forward to doing it again the next day. It also made it easier to be with by cousin and her husband, who in the past had been very difficult and demanding. It was much easier for me to just accept them rather than be in conflict with them. We ended up having this wonderful trip together, and he even became more loving in the process."  

There are many ways to practice metta, which is sometimes also called a "loving kindness" meditation. (There is a guided exercise in this at the end of this chapter.) One form is as follows:  

May I be peaceful.  
May I be happy.  
May I be well.  
May I be safe.  
May I be free from suffering.  

May all beings be peaceful.  
May all beings be happy.  
May all beings be well.  
May all beings be safe.  
May all beings be free from suffering.  

These words are repeated slowly, with pauses between phrases for contemplation and absorption of the intention. It is a common practice in this tradition to "do metta" as a formal spiritual practice daily, and there are even meditation retreats in which this constitutes the whole practice day in and day out for a week or more. The emphasis is not so much on sound vibration as on being absorbed in the repetition of the mental intention. Practitioners universally report that such practice opens the heart and creates deep feelings of peacefulness and harmony.