In my most recent post about Stoicism, I talked about a seeming lack of very effective exercises, within Stoicism, for cultivating a Stoic love for humanity or “philanthropia.” I have, however, found a fairly good exercise for this. Although it’s from outside Stoicism, just as Seneca thought Stoics could benefit from various Epicurean principles and practices, so should Stoics be able to use this traditionally Buddhist exercise.
You may be familiar with the exercise. It is usually called metta, or loving-kindness, meditation. Here is one simple explanation of how to do it by teacher Sharon Salzberg.
There are variations on the specific verses employed. The video linked to above gives one variation. Here is an even simpler variation, which you’ll find in many sources including Martine Batchelor’s book Meditation for Life:
May I be healthy
May I be happy
May I be at peace
(The “I” in the verses then changes, as the intention’s object shifts and expands.)
There are also much longer versions of the verses. I personally have used mostly shorter variations, as I find these easier to remember and focus on. I’ve also found that when I practice this sort of exercise, it does help me with what my Stoic “lens” recognizes as philanthropia. It’s worth mentioning too that there is growing scientific evidence regarding this type of exercise, although it’s of course not framed in terms of the Stoic philanthropia concept.
Who’s had experience with metta / loving-kindness meditation? Do you also practice Stoicism at all?
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