(~300 words, ~2 minutes)
I’m not a committed practitioner of any Buddhist path, but one form of meditation that I deeply appreciate is metta meditation. It’s a variety of meditation where the center of attention is the sensation of lovingkindness (“metta”). A guided metta meditation will generally include mantras or visualizations that elicit the sensation of lovingkindness so that it can be attended to and worked with in the practice. I have been trying out an approach that I find very helpful for eliciting the sensation, and I’m somewhat surprised that I have not found it explicitly formulated anywhere. The closest I have found is this talk by Jill Shepard on “Reciprocal flow metta practice.”
Sensations of lovingkindness can sometimes be difficult to muster all on your own. One way to reduce the difficulty is to recognize the lovingkindness that others have shown to you. Jill Shepard guides us to recall acts of lovingkindness that others have done for us in the past, and to see if those memories help trigger the sense of lovingkindness in ourselves.
The approach that I have found very helpful here is to consider that out of all of those metta practitioners out there, some of them are sending metta to other people practicing metta. You can receive this metta, but you can also be the one sending it because there is a symmetry to the practice. This is what I call reciprocal metta meditation. The practice of reciprocal metta, in my experience, feels extremely real. You do not merely remember or imagine someone else showing lovingkindness, but you recognize and create the fact that metta meditators are showing each other lovingkindness. You can help close a loop of metta flowing through the metta community, growing it so that it can be boundlessly expressed to everyone else.