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‘Positive’ emotions are essentially those that are not self-centred. They are more outgoing and orientated towards others, though their positivity naturally includes ourselves. The most fundamental of these positive emotions is metta — a Pali word which means unlimited loving-kindness or benevolence. The development of metta (Metta Bhavana) is generally the first practice taught to cultivate this aspect of the system of meditation.
Metta Bhavana is one of a traditional set of four practices that cultivates different aspects of positive emotion. When, with metta, we encounter pain and suffering, the well-wishing naturally becomes compassion. When we encounter happiness, it becomes sympathetic joy; we delight in someone else’s good fortune. When we contemplate all the ups and downs of human (and non-human) existence, the positive emotion becomes equanimity; this is a steady, empathic and unshakeable positivity, which embodies deep insight into the human condition.
Achievement of a reasonable degree of integration and positive emotion (samatha) is the basis for the next two aspects of the system, involving the cultivation and realisation of insight.
Listen to talks around the theme of positive emotion.