Metta Bhavana Meditation As A Silent Weapon Against Bipolar By Michael Pytell
Living with bipolar and anxiety disorder you realize that your mental health consumes you. You constantly feel guilt and your self confidence fluctuates from soaring to crushing. At a certain point in my life I felt extremely selfish - I was constantly focused on my moods, and wrapped up with my overall stability that everything else slipped in the cracks beneath me. When I say everything, I mean everything. Bipolar was defining me and controlling this selfish behavior 24/7. There was a point in time where unnecessary stress was brought upon my personal life because of it including my marriage, college, and my job.
I used meditation before as a source of relief from anxiety and bipolar, but I didn't really know what I was doing. All I knew was that I wanted to build off of it in a way to where I can put all of those selfish feelings behind me and focus on providing more love in my relationships. Upon a quick search I stumbled upon lovingkindness meditation: something called Metta Bhavana. After several months of practicing this form of meditation the results were clear. This form of meditation allows me to express feelings for all beings rather than just myself. I was able to clear my head and provide the loving feelings that my wife deserves. The word "metta" simply means love and "bhavana" means cultivation. There are five stages to metta bhavana and in each stage love is cultivated for a specific person and then finally for all beings you are aware of. Every person meditates differently, so I will spell out how I go about it. This can be performed in a traditional seated position, or lying down.
Stage 1: This is the beginning to building up your metta. In stage one you focus on yourself only. Put on some relaxing music and breathe slowly and deeply. Once you feel relaxed, begin becoming aware of yourself and allow feelings of peace overcome you. Think positively and let these positive feelings expand into confidence. Take your time and ease into transitioning this strength and self confidence into love. At this point you begin stimulating metta for yourself. I like to picture myself dripping in gold while rays of light shine from every pore in my body. You really want to get that image in your head for deeper stimulation. Finally begin repeating the phrase in your head "may I be well, may I be happy". Do this for however long you please before moving onto the next (I do roughly 5-7 minutes per stage)
Stage 2: In the second stage you want to shift your focus from yourself to others. From here on out you will leave yourself behind and focus giving metta to everyone else. In stage two you want to think of a good friend. Picture this good friend and recall all of their good qualities and what makes them a good friend to you. Shift your metta to them and picture that light shining from your body going to their heart. Imagine them dripping in gold with so much love and positivity being spread to their core. Let these feelings grow on you and feel the connection between you and this good friend.
Stage 3: This spot is held for a neutral person. This is someone that you do not have strong feelings for, but someone that you also don't particularly dislike. I like to think of someone that I recently met- someone that I don't know much about. I picture this person and reflect on their humanity. They are included in my metta and I send tremendous love their way. The deep connection between yourself and someone that you don't even know is crucial here as it expands your emotions for others.
Stage 4: Stage four gets interesting because here you want to think of someone that you actually dislike. This will be someone that you have bad feelings for; an enemy. The most important thing here is you cannot get caught up in any negative feelings towards them. Instead simply send your metta in their direction and reflect on their humanity.
Stage 5: In the concluding stage, think about all four people together: yourself, the good friend, the neutral person, and the enemy. Capture that metta and expand it further. I like to start small because here is where you need to begin reflecting on all beings we share the Earth with. You start with yourself and the three other people, and think about your next door neighbor. With each and every person as you expand out further and further, picture a ripple from a droplet of water. Those ripples are the feelings of metta you are throwing off to all you are aware of. After you picture your neighbor, think about your neighborhood. Expand further to your town, state, country, and finally worldwide. Feel yourself bursting with metta for all of those around you as you imagine the Earth dripping with gold and light shining out of its surface. Whenever you are ready, ease out of the meditative state and apply what you have learned to your daily life.