by Bhante Mahinda
In order to understand how metta can be such a powerful tool in the healing process, we first need to consider what it is that needs to be healed…
Disease, or sickness, arises as the result of dis-‘ease’. When our bodies or minds are subject to some kind of stress and are not at ease, illness starts to develop. This stress and imbalance can affect us on all levels – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
At the physical level, our bodies are affected by the presence of viruses, bacteria or abnormal cells; pollutants or toxic substances; physical injuries; as well as unhealthy diet and lifestyle habits. When this kind of physical stress is experienced, our body responds with its own natural defence mechanism. For example, when we catch a cold, our immune system responds to fight off the infection. We may experience discomfort for a short time, but if there are no mitigating factors, our body is eventually able to heal itself.
However, our physical body does not exist in isolation but is interlinked with our emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing. There is increasing medical evidence showing how our mind and emotions affect our physical body  (and vice-versa). Thus when we consider ‘dis-ease’ and healing we need to take a holistic approach and take into account all these different aspects of our being.
Stress on an emotional level is caused by negative emotions, such anger, hatred and grudges; fear, worry and phobias; jealousy; desire and many more. On a mental level, our beliefs, views and thinking process (both rational and irrational) can also cause stress and imbalance. There is also the influence of karma (our past actions as well as present habitual tendencies) of which we may or may not be aware.
On a spiritual level, certain vows or aspirations we have made in the past may cause stress and sickness when our way of life does not flow with what we have determined. In certain cases, stress and sickness can also be conditioned by the influence of lower beings (or spirits).
In everyday life, we may not realise the effect that these mental, emotional and spiritual factors have on our physical health. But as we practise meditation and begin to understand the complex nature of our being, we start to become aware of how they are interrelated. For example, when we experience anxiety or fear, we may feel our stomach tighten. If we repeat this physical reaction many times, a lot of tension will build up in the region of our stomach and it would not be surprising if we experienced digestive problems as a result. Similarly, anger, grief and suppressed emotions can contribute to all manner of diseases and physical problems.
We are all beings of energy – the physical and mental elements of our body are all made up of energy. Stress caused by external and internal factors means that our energy fields are disturbed. This causes our bodies’ natural defence mechanisms against disease to become imbalanced, and thus the body loses its own healing powers.
The positive energies of loving-kindness help to relieve the stress and tension of our mind and body, re-establishing balance and harmony in our energy field, and allowing our body’s defence mechanisms to function optimally for the healing process to take place. Being an antidote to anger, hatred and grudges, metta helps to transmute negative thoughts and emotions, allowing the spirit of forgiveness to manifest, thereby cleansing various blockages and restoring balance within oneself. Coming from the sincere wish to be well, the practice of metta has the potential to heal all aspects of our being: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
… Part Two of this article will deal in greater detail with the practical application of metta in healing.
See, for example, The Living Matrix – The Science of Healing documentary available at www.thelivingmatrixmovie.com (24/6/2013).