Working With Phrases for Metta/Lovingkindness
from Jack Kornfield:
May I be filled with lovingkindness
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers
May I be well in body and mind
May I be at ease and happy
From Sharon Salzberg:
May I be free from danger
May I have mental Happiness
May I have physical Happiness
May I have ease of well-being
In her book Loving-kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (Shambala Classics, 1995) Sharon has some really helpful advice:
"We say the phrases as though cherishing a fragile and precious object in our hand. Were we to grab on too tightly, it would shatter and break. Were we to be lax and negligent, it would fall out of our hand and break. We cherish the object gently, carefully, without force, but paying close attention. Try to connect to each phrase, one at a time. There is no need to worry about what has gone by or to anticipate what has not yet come, not even the next phase. Don't struggle to manufacture a feeling of love. Simply repeat the phrases, thereby planting the potent seeds of intention, and trust that nature will take its own course."
Creating Your Own Phrases
Let yourself be inspired by the poems we've been reading for metta incline you towards curiosity, playfulness, let yourself riff on the traditional phrases, opening to adaptions that might present themselves. Be receptive to associations and connotations that arise in your mind and feel free to come up with your own phrases.
It's helpful to anchor yourself in the traditional themes of (1) happiness (2) safety/protection (3) health (4) peacefulness. However, even as you get creative, it is important to maintain the "may I" as opposed to "I am"; it is an invitation not a demand. We are not attempting to manipulate the present with positive thinking--honesty and a willingness to accept the reality of the present moment is very important. Metta is a practice of friendliness and it's not friendly to lie to yourself; it may not always true to say "I am happy" but it is always true that I would like to be happy, to be open and receptive to happiness even if I am not feeling it in the moment.
I like to change my phrases to keep myself interested and alert and attentive to the effect of different phrases. For example for the idea of safety, I might say "May I feel safe from inner and outer harm, may I feel connected and supported, may I feel grounded, may I feel steady, may I feel strong."So I am layering each theme (in this case "safety" with multiple phrases. As with any technique, there is a downside--sometimes varying the phrases may start to feel fussy and distracting and it feels better to stay with one simple phrase for each of the for main themes. I go over and back. Sometimes keeping it very clean and simple is steadying and helps me focus, while at other times, I find this boring and I find that my mind wanders. So, as with formal mindfulness meditation, sometimes it helps to steady and concentrate the mind and other times it's more appropriate to open the field of awareness to whatever arises. I recommend playing with both; begin with the simplicity of one phrase per theme and when the creativity beckons and the opening up of the phrases creates interest and engagement, then that is skillful--when it starts to feel too open and you feel yourself drifting and spacing out, bring it back to the cleaner simpler phrases (either your own or the traditional ones). Think of it as widening and narrowing the lens of awareness.
The Order Of Well-Wishing