Addicts are known to be self-absorbed and selfish. They often show a complete disregard for other people’s needs and happiness. When these individuals become sober, it is necessary for them to develop a new outlook on life. Acting similarly to how they did in the past will likely take them back to addiction. They need to be able to get beyond their self-absorption. One way they can achieve this is by practicing metta meditation. Such a practice will also help the individual escape the feelings of self-loathing that many will carry with them into recovery.
The word metta comes from Pali, an ancient Indian language. There is disagreement as to the word’s exact meaning, but it is similar to the English words loving-kindness, benevolence or friendliness. Metta meditation is usually referred to as loving-kindness meditation in English.
Despite its religious undertones, the discovery that metta meditation can help people mentally and physically has led to increased interest in the practice by non-Buddhists. There is no requirement to adopt any religious views in order to gain the benefits of the technique. It isn’t even necessary to be a particularly spiritual person.
Practicing metta meditation can be highly beneficial to people in recovery. Here are just some of the ways it can help:
* Resentment and anger towards other people can be a stumbling block for people who are trying to stay sober. Such negativity gets in the way of progress. It is common for angry thoughts about other people to be used as a justification for relapse. Loving-kindness meditation eases resentment and allows the individual to forgive those who have caused them pain.
* It is common for people in recovery to be full of guilt and self-loathing about their own past transgressions. A key element of this type of practice is that the meditator has to be able to direct loving-kindness inwardly. This means that they have to learn how to forgive themselves.
* This type of practice increases the person’s joy, adding value to their sobriety and reducing the likelihood of relapse.
* When people experience frequent loving thoughts, it tends to have a calming effect on their mind. This means that they will find life easier to deal with, as they will not become stressed so easily. The first few years of sobriety tend to be full of challenges, so anything that makes stress easier to manage is welcome.
* Research is providing evidence that metta meditation can be of great value for helping people deal with chronic pain.
* This technique may also be of value when dealing with depressive symptoms and anxiety.
* This type of practice can help people sleep better at night. Insomnia can be a real problem for people in early recovery. Metta meditation helps because it produces a great sense of peace in the mind. It can be particularly helpful if people do metta meditation before they go to bed.
* Loving-kindness meditation means that the individual will be able to handle family members more skillfully. The most stressful part of recovery can be dealing with loved ones. This is because these people may have been hurt by the addict’s behavior in the past. Unresolved anger may lie just below the surface. By practicing this type of meditation, the individual is better able to deal with their relationships.
* Metta meditation can make people appear more attractive. This might sound like a bold claim, but it does appear to be the case. The reason it works is that loving-kindness changes physical appearance and behavior. Those individuals who are full of love and positivity are just easier to be around. They become less self-absorbed and selfish, two unattractive personal characteristics.
There are many techniques for loving-kindness meditation, but most follow a similar structure. It is sufficient to sit for 20 minutes, but even five minutes a day will bring some benefit. The key to getting effective results is regularity. Ideally, meditators would practice every day. Here are a few suggestions for practicing metta meditation:
* Find a comfortable position. There is no need to sit cross-legged. Meditators can sit in a chair so long as they keep their back straight. It is possible to practice lying down, but this introduces the risk of falling asleep. Wearing comfortable, unrestrictive clothing is recommended.
* Setting an alarm for a predetermined duration is wise. That way, the meditator is less tempted to keep an eye on the clock.
* Begin by focusing on the breath. Do not try to control the breath in any way. Instead, simply observe how it moves through the body. The individual should continue to concentrate on the breath for a few minutes until they feel relaxation sets in.
* The next step involves remembering a time of particular happiness. The meditator must feel the joy of this instance in their whole body and keep hold of that feeling. The proceeds to silently chant, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be free from suffering. It is not necessary to use these exact words, but the words that are used should express a similar sentiment.
* Next, the meditator thinks of a good friend. It is best to avoid using a sexual partner for this. While mentally picturing this friend, the individual sends good wishes their way using the words may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be free from suffering. The meditator also directs their feelings of joy towards this friend.
* The next step is to mentally picture a neutral person. This is an individual who the meditator does not know very well so they have no strong feelings about them. The process here is the same as before, again using the words may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be free from suffering.
* The next stage of loving-kindness is the one that most people struggle with. It involves picturing an enemy and sending them the same positive thoughts. The meditator may find that feelings of positivity towards the other person do not come easily, but it is important to try. This is something that becomes easier over time.
* The final step of loving-kindness meditation involves sending positive thoughts to every sentient being (any life form that has consciousness) in the universe. The words to use here are, may all sentient beings be happy, may all sentient beings be healthy, may all sentient beings be free of suffering.
Here are a few things that are worth considering when practicing loving kindness meditation:
* It is important not to rush the different stages of metta meditation. People should spend at least a few minutes on each of the steps.
* Sometimes you have to fake it to make it. Those people who are dealing with a great deal of anger inside can struggle with loving-kindness meditation. This means that they themselves unable to summon much love for others. This is not a problem. Practicing loving-kindness regularly softens the heart. They will one day realize that that they really do feel full of love for everyone.
* It is recommended that those practicing any form of meditation spend time with a teacher. Meditative practice can take the individual in all sorts of fascinating directions. If they travel without a teacher, there will be a tendency to get lost.
* Sometimes, sitting through metta meditation can be a challenge. This is particularly true when the person is feeling distracted or bored. These days come to every meditator, and the best way to deal with them is to just sit through them. Even when loving-kindness meditation feels like a waste of time, it can be still be effective.