On Tuesday nights I lead a meditation group at Onsen For All in in the Princeton, NJ area. When I started this class I chose a meditation sampler format in which participants experienced a range of meditative experiences over a 6 week period. Since there are many ways in which to mediate and because we are so various in the world, with different orientations and responses, I believed that exposure to a different approach each week would be helpful for the participants.
The common element from week to week was practicing basic, breathing, seated meditation at the beginning of the session for fifteen minutes and then the introduction to the meditation of the week and practice. After teaching this format for some time, I decided that people would derive greater benefit from working with a particular meditation for a month, while still including the basic seated meditation for 15 minutes.
Currently we are practicing Loving-Kindness meditation, also known as the metta meditation. While I don’t recall meeting a meditation that I didn’t like, the metta meditation ranks as one of my favorites.
One of the elements that I appreciate about this practice is its age and that it is said to have been given by the Buddha to his disciples. When I teach this meditation, I mention that when we do this meditation we connect, in a way, with those people through the ages who have used this practice. Over 2,600 years, that’s a lot of people.
The Buddha stated that there are eleven advantages of practicing loving-kindness and living accordingly. These benefits are that one sleeps well, awakens comfortably, has no disturbing dreams, is dear to human beings, is dear to non-human beings, is guarded by deities, is unharmed by external dangers, has a radiant face, has a serene mind, dies unconfused, and is reborn to higher realms.
Recent studies suggest that Loving-Kindness mediation may impact health and well-being. Seven minutes of Loving-Kindness meditation can increase social connectedness. It has been shown to reduce pain and anger in people with chronic lower back pain. Use of this practice can help boost positive emotions and sense of well-being and also reduce reactions to inflammation and distress.
For me, this practice brings a deep sense of connection to others, myself and to all of life. I believe that this connection is what we all seek.