In doing metta, as understood and practiced in Buddhism, one does not do a mantra, as such. e.g., repeating “may this person be happy.” The phrase or thought one uses, such as “may John be happy” is simply an “anchor,” even as the breath may be anchor in meditation—that is, something to return to again and again when thought wanders away from presence. The idea is not to simply, mechanically repeat, “may John be happy, may John be happy, etc. etc.” Such repetition tends to lead to mental dullness and can be mesmeric, putting one to sleep (figuratively and literally!) instead of developing insight and alert attention to what is going on and being felt.
That said, in my own loving-kindness practice, I have found it very helpful in some cases to be as specific as possible when establishing the object of contemplation and presence. For example, if you are inspired to do metta for a friend, naming that friend and holding them in thought, remembering what you love about them, their good actions, and so on, is very helpful in maintaining focus and evoking feelings of loving-kindness and good will.
Today, like many, many others my attention and goodwill and loving-kindness, have turned to the earthquake disaster in Nepal. Beyond donations, or being able to do something physically, one can feel helpless in the face of a far-away disaster, but I am among those who feel that prayer, and metta, can make a difference, affecting general human consciousness, and yes, even affecting human situations in some measure. (The beneficial, helping effects of metta on my own body are for me something beyond question, and the real and good effects of metta for others is also something I’ve seen for myself and that others have confirmed.)
♡ May those trapped in ruble be found and saved. May the rescuers be led by wisdom and spiritual intuition in finding and freeing those trapped.
♡ May those trapped in the rubble not lose heart. Beyond hope and fear, may they feel that within them that is comforting, safe, and home.
♡ May those who have lost family, loved ones, and friends be comforted and find comfort in love and care and attention to one another. May these loses turn hearts to expressing our higher, more unselfish, and loving nature.
♡ May the doctors and nurses and medical helpers be strong, and may they be supported and appreciated for all their valiant efforts in an overwhelming situation. May the international community respond swiftly and immediately to the medical needs of this disaster.
♡ May the people of the world, the leaders of the world, hearing of this disaster and great need, respond quickly and generously to minimize suffering and death.
♡ May this tragedy in our world remind us — if we need to be reminded — of the transience of all things and of the great preciousness of human life. May such suffering and loss be an impetus to living a more selfless life, a more loving and caring life.
♡ May all beings be safe and secure.
If the ideas in this post are new to you, or intriguing, here is a some basic instruction on metta from some really fine dharma teachers that can be of great help in developing the heart:
BASIC METTA INSTRUCTION
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