A Mettawave Manifesto

A lot of Western meditation culture is built around sitting silently in a room. There are good reasons for that – silence and stillness can be useful for practice in certain styles and traditions. But there are other ways of practice that are also effective – and can be even more fun. I like Tai Chi and Qi Gong, for example, or a good yoga class. But perhaps my favorite way to meditate – full stop – is combining loving kindness meditation with dance.

I love loving kindness meditation, I love to dance, and I love dance music. It turns out you can actually practice loving kindness while dancing, and while listening to good dance music – and that it can even be more powerful than practicing in solitude and stillness- and all the more when done with friends.

If you know how to practice loving kindness, it’s not too hard to combine with dance. When it’s nice out, I like to walk to a nearby park with my headphones on, hit play on some good tunes, and start dancing. I bring up feelings of loving kindness in my heart, and imagine various visuals to support that practice. My favorite is visualizing love pouring out of my heart, spreading through my whole body and shooting out of my hands towards other people. Picture Dragon Ball Z, but your hands are radiating love instead of Kamehameha waves.

I’ve really enjoyed sharing tracks and sets with other friends who love EDM as much as I do: getting to know different artists and genres better, and curating lists of tracks that I love to listen and dance to.

There’s a lot of good EDM (Electronic Dance Music) out there to dance to. Lifetimes and lifetimes of music to dance to. There are so many good genres: trance, psytrance, DNB, ambient, synthwave…

However, it’s very common that music I love isn’t well suited for combining with loving kindness meditation. Don’t get me wrong – it’s good music. I really like it! But there’s a lot of reasons a track wouldn’t go well with loving kindness meditation.

Often, the vibes are off: the melodies, the tones, the rhythm. It’s easy to find EDM that’s absolutely amazing – well produced, entrancing sounds, and fun to dance to – but with vibes that are sad, dark, scary, or aggressive.

It’s also common that if there are lyrics, they are unrelated to loving kindness (or even sometimes counter to it). It is common for EDM tracks to have lyrics about love, but they are almost always explicitly or implicitly about romantic love.

It’s not there’s a problem with romantic or sexual love – I’m a hopeless romantic myself – but romantic love is meaningfully distinct from the kind of love cultivated in loving kindness practice. Loving kindness or mettā is unconditional, non-romantic, nonsexual – you want people to be happy, simply because they are alive, whoever they are!

I would love for there to be a genre of EDM that is specifically designed for loving kindness meditation. Perhaps it could be called something like “mettawave” or “mettatrance.” In any case, the music would:

  • Have melodies and rhythms that are fun, happy, hopeful, inspiring, uplifting, upbeat, psychoactive, hot, sexy, moving
  • The melodies and rhythms should never be violent, scary, or sad (although they might sometimes engender compassion or equanimity)
  • If there are lyrics or samples, they should make references to loving kindness, the Brahmavihārās, and other related themes
  • And they should be enjoyable to dance to!

One of my dreams is starting a dance club designed for practicing loving kindness meditation with EDM.

Just imagine. You show up to a dance club on a Friday Night. You come a little earlier than would be usual at another dance party – five or six or seven in the evening. The entry room is bright and open, spacious and welcoming – friendly. The evening begins with a guided meditation. There’s an abundance of comfy cushions to sit on, chairs, and places to lie down. There’s a short talk on what loving kindness is, and then a guided meditation – including instructions about how to apply it to dancing.

Then the scene changes. You step through some doors, into the back room – the main room – the dance floor. The music hits – slow to start, then faster and faster. You want to move your whole body, swaying and winding and undulating alongside the rhythm.

The room is dark, but it’s lit with various lights, words, and visuals that remind you of loving kindness. There are strobe lights with reds, golds, pinks, and sunset colors, and images or icons of hearts, laser beams, happy people and animals, the planet, space.

You’re practicing metta, with a big smile on your face and a feeling of warmth and joy in your heart. You look around, and it looks like most everyone else is too. Maybe some people are just dancing and enjoying the music – that’s fine – but it looks like everyone is happy, smiling, and wishing each other and all beings happiness. In any case, the music is banging, and everyone’s having a grand old time.

I would love to go to a dance party like that. I’d have an absolute blast. My heart would be wide open, a huge smile on my face, sweat on my forehead, and my whole body pulsing with joy – the sheer delight of dancing to such wonderful music.

If and when I’m in a position to create a metta-focused dance club, I’d love for there to be an abundance of metta-friendly EDM to use at that club.

In the meantime, I’ll be doing my thing, working towards that world. I’ll be practicing loving kindness, teaching it, and trying to inspire others to practice it, too. I’ll continue to collect existing tracks that I think go well with loving kindness into playlists. I’ll occasionally offer mettā dance parties, online and offline. And I’ll make music videos with this kind of music and intention, as I’m able.

All of this will all be in service of a world where metta is widely adopted: where it is well understood, evenly distributed, and makes people extremely happy. A world where metta is often practiced while dancing, and there are clubs, DJ’s, and performers who specifically intend to create musical experiences for combining metta and dance. Above all, metta is cool, fun, inspiring, even sexy – and as it spreads in the world, people are increasingly happy and kind.

May all beings be happy.

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