Metta bhavana has five stages and strives to grow the emotion of loving-kindness, transforming the yogi over time to care and promote harmony for all. For a beginner, each stage should be practiced for about five minutes.
- Stage 1: A yogi has metta toward him/herself and becomes aware of feelings of peace while meditating. Many choose to repeat a loving phrase or well-wish for themselves in this stage, using it for the remainder of the practice.
- Stage 2: The yogi now thinks of a close friend and his/her good qualities, repeating a loving phrase or well-wish for the friend.
- Stage 3: The yogi repeats the process in Stage 2 for a person they have neutral feelings toward. For example, someone they may not know personally or do not like or dislike yet.
- Stage 4: The yogi now repeats the process in Stage 2 again, but for a person they dislike. For example, someone whom they consider an enemy, someone who hurt them, or someone they harbor resentment toward.
- Stage 5: Finally, the yogi thinks of all the four people together and then, while still repeating a loving phrase or well-wish, extends these feelings of loving-kindness to all people and things.