I first learned of this meditation from a small 50 or so page pamphlet I purchased from a library book sale for 1 dollar. I’ve since read through that small pamphlet(titled Gleanings from Soto-Zen) dozens of times over the years, and glean something new from it every time. I think this is one of the defining features of powerful works of truth; the ability to revisit it, and take in something that wasn’t there any of the times you were with it before. Like a good friend, the book grows with you continues to teach you new things, or points out old lessons you had struggled with to show you how far you’ve come.
Metta means something along the lines of loving-kindness, or compassion. Metta meditation is the cultivation of this quality unconditionally towards all others for the purpose of opening our hearts and minds to compassionate understanding of others in our lives.
Take a comfortable seat somewhere, or lie down. Come into an awareness of your breathing, and feel the warmth and fullness of your heart. Feel your love for yourself, and feel it spilling over; you have an abundance of love spilling forth from you. Picture a friend, or even just a powerful iconic image that means something to you, Jesus, Buddha, Shiva, whatever that may be. Picture them smiling and happy, and imagine the love coming off you merging into and becoming them. Feel a complete opening of your heart to this person until you realize there is no difference between you and the other; you’re merely the universe subjectively experiencing itself.
Then, turn your attention to another person close to you, and feel the same opening of your heart. Go through all your closest friends and family, people who inspire and uplift you, people you have good hopes for their future. Feel the love come off of you for each of these people. Like a candle sharing its flame, the original candle is never compromised, even after lighting 10, 20, 100, 1000 other candles. There is only abundance.
Then turn your loving kindness and compassion on someone you don’t particularly like.
Open your heart and mind to all those you have unfavourable or indifferent views towards, and realize there is no difference between the other and yourself; you are both interpretations of the universe contained in a specific space and time. You’re both a manifestation of the universe, so baring ill will or harm towards another is ultimately baring ill will and harm towards yourself. Know there exists no difference in the quality of consciousness between you two, and the differences are completely contained within our ego structures. Completely be with each of these people in your heart, and spread your love and compassion to them.
Finally, see your compassion spread out to all beings living on the same hemisphere as you, and then slowly envelope the opposite hemisphere, until there isn’t a single living being who isn’t being embraced in your loving kindness. Picture the entire earth, not just as an artifact that we live on, but as the organism that every living being is a cell on. Spread your loving kindness and compassion to the earth, and to the sky and the sun.
Give your gratitude to others and to the earth, without which you would not be who you are, a perfect manifestation of love.
Be love now.