I use Maithree meditation for many moments of stress instead of Anapanasati. Is it a recommended practice? I find out this works for me and helps me move away from the stress at hand and find present moment peace in my mind. All ideas are welcome!
Metta meditation will help you to reduce stress caused by hatred. But it won't be much effective against stress caused by craving or clinging. Anapanasati meditation can be used to get away from all kinds of stress and calm the mind. But it may require Metta meditation at the start as it is hard to concentrate, if you get irritated a lot. Ultimately, it is Vipassana meditation that will give a lasting solution for stress. There is no end to other meditation types. You will have to keep practicing them to maintain whatever peaceful state you may attain.
You can use all these meditations in combination. ex:
- Start with Metta and then do Anapanasati.
- Start with Metta and then do Vipassana.
- Start with Metta and then Anapanasati to attain Samadhi and then turn it to Vipassana.
- Or just do one of those meditations from the start.
If you don't have a teacher, you can experiment and see what works best for you.
Yes, it is recommended in the suttas; here is an excerpt from the Metta Sutta:
Thus have I heard:
On one occasion the Blessed One was living near Savatthi at Jetavana at Anathapindika's monastery. Then he addressed the monks saying, "Monks." — "Venerable Sir," said the monks, by way of reply. The Blessed One then spoke as follows:
"Monks, eleven advantages are to be expected from the release (deliverance) of heart by familiarizing oneself with thoughts of loving-kindness (metta), by the cultivation of loving-kindness, by constantly increasing these thoughts, by regarding loving-kindness as a vehicle (of expression), and also as something to be treasured, by living in conformity with these thoughts, by putting these ideas into practice, and by establishing them. What are the eleven?
- "He sleeps in comfort. 2. He awakes in comfort. 3. He sees no evil dreams. 4. He is dear to human beings. 5. He is dear to non-human beings. 6. Devas (gods) protect him. 7. Fire, poison, and sword cannot touch him. 8. His mind can concentrate quickly. 9. His countenance is serene. 10. He dies without being confused in mind. 11. If he fails to attain arahantship (the highest sanctity) here and now, he will be reborn in the brahma-world.
Also, here is an article on the benefits of lovingkindness meditation according to science that may be of interest. Not sure how I feel about all the scientific research on meditation to this point but worth a look.
Maithri or metta bhavana towards oneself is acceptable at most times. However, unless one is rested, is not stressed and not carrying unwholesome thoughts, performing it for others is not recommended.
Simply because it's rare for one to wish harm to the self, but easier to wish it for others, even unintentionally, because we often pass judgement of slight proportions without being aware of it.
One can also combine the Anapanasāti with metta by repeating this gātha as we breathe -
"Breathing in, I feel calm and relaxed in body and mind;
Breathing out, I see a beautiful smile appear on my lips"
Update: Some comments have revealed a sentiment that it is okay to do metta in any quality of mind.
It's very important to not practice metta bhavana with a mind of defilements, or we can transmit negativity, and harm our objects of metta instead of helping.
The commentaries state: Mijjati siniyhati 'ti mettā - that which inclines one to a friendly disposition is mettā. It is a sincere wish for the good and welfare of all, devoid of ill-will. Adoso 'ti mettā - "non-aversion is mettā." The chief characteristic of mettā is a benevolent attitude. It culminates in the identification of oneself with all beings, a recognition of the fellowship of all life.
So long as negativities such as aversion dominate the mind, it is futile to formulate conscious thoughts of goodwill, and doing so would be a ritual devoid of inner meaning. However, when negativities are removed by the practice of Vipassana, goodwill naturally wells up in the mind; and emerging from the prison of self-obsession, we begin to concern ourselves with the welfare of others.
Mettā is not prayer; nor is it the hope that an outside agency will help. On the contrary, it is a dynamic process producing a supportive atmosphere where others can act to help themselves. Mettā can be omni-directional or directed toward a particular person. In either case, meditators are simply providing an outlet; because the mettā we feel is not 'our' mettā. By eliminating egotism we open our minds and make them conduits for the forces of positivity throughout the universe. The realization that mettā is not produced by us makes its transmission truly selfless.
In order to conduct mettā, the mind must be calm, balanced and free from negativity. This is the type of mind developed in the practice of Vipassana. A meditator knows by experience how anger, antipathy, or ill-will destroys peace and frustrates any efforts to help others. Only as hatred is removed and equanimity is developed can we be happy and wish happiness for others. The words "May all beings be happy" have great force only when uttered from a pure mind. Backed by this purity, they will certainly be effective in fostering the happiness of others.
We must therefore examine ourselves before practising mettā-bhāvanā to check whether we are really capable of transmitting mettā. If we find even a tinge of hatred or aversion in our minds, we should refrain at that time. Otherwise we would transmit that negativity, causing harm to others. However, if mind and body are filled with serenity and well-being, it is natural and appropriate to share this happiness with others: "May you be happy, may you be liberated from the defilements that are the causes of suffering, may all beings be peaceful."