Lovingkindness Meditation and the Good Wolf

If you spend any time at all on social media, you have undoubtedly read the following Cherokee parable:

An old man is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old man simply replied, “The one you feed.”

This tale is widely circulated because it presents a simple path toward goodness. If we want to be good, all we have to do is nourish that side of our nature.

How, exactly, do we do that?

One way is through practicing lovingkindness meditation, which is also called metta.

You can “feed your good wolf” by using this simple meditation technique, which has been proven to increase feelings of empathy and compassion for others.

Begin by sitting in an alert-but-relaxed posture in a quiet room. Place your palms on your thighs and gently close your eyes.

Take a few deep breaths and release them slowly and completely to bring your awareness to the moment.

Picture someone you love. This may be a family member, lover, friend or even a pet. Hold them in your mind’s eye and silently repeat the following phrases at a pace that feels comfortable for you.

May you be filled with lovingkindness.

May you be safe from harm.

May you be well and free from chronic pain.

May you be peaceful and at ease.

May you be happy.

https://www.nyimc.org/how-to-meditate/ (modified)

Next, take a few moments to generate feelings of warmth, friendliness and compassion for yourself. Then repeat the phrases:

May I be filled with lovingkindness.

May I be safe from harm.

May I be well and free from chronic pain.

May I be peaceful and at ease.

May I be happy.

https://www.nyimc.org/how-to-meditate/ (modified)

Continue this meditation by wishing good things for a “neutral” person (such as your dry cleaner), someone you consider to be difficult and, finally, for all beings everywhere.

The entire meditation will take around five minutes.  

Initially, this practice may seem strange. You may have a hard time generating positive feelings towards yourself or others on your list. But eventually you will notice that you are able to engender genuine feelings of compassion even for neutral and difficult people while you’re meditating.

Moreover, you may realize that you’re feeling more generous toward others even when you’re not meditating. Suddenly, you may be able to see that everyone wants essentially the same things, that everyone is more similar than different, that everyone deserves compassion and that everyone is interconnected.

How is it possible that lovingkindness meditation can generate so many positive results? As part of a larger study on meditation, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied 16 Tibetan monks who were proficient at metta. Astoundingly, the researchers were able to utilize brain imaging to observe dramatic, positive physiological changes in the brain circuits that perceive emotions and feelings.

All things considered, lovingkindness or metta meditation is a powerful practice. In just five minutes a day, you can increase your empathy and compassion while feeling more connected to others. What better way to feed your good wolf?

3 thoughts on “Lovingkindness Meditation and the Good Wolf

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