The biggest problem we Westerners have when we approach a Buddhist concept like metta, “loving-kindness”, is that we basically only have three concepts of “love”: (1) intense romantic love; (2) family love; or, alternately, if we are being very spiritual, (3) noble saintly love for all our fellow men and women—Jesus-type love, or Ghandi-type love, which of course we think is way out of reach for lowly mortals like us.
When my teacher taught the Brahma Viharas (the four meditations on love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity), there was almost always a question from a Western student asking how to meditate on love because “looove” is either an intensely personal emotion (which we don’t feel for everyone), or a highly spiritual emotion which not everyone thinks they can evoke. My teacher was remarkably straightforward on this point. He’d say, “You have got friends, haven’t you? Well metta simply means friendliness. And a slightly warm feeling. When you hear metta, think ‘friendly and warm’.”
I’ve always found this extremely helpful. It lowers the bar to where even people like me can get over it. Warm and friendly? I can do that.
And this should be the starting point, the bedrock, the foundation that all the other Brahma Viharas spring from (in fact where all your meditation should start from). If you go to the Suttas (the talks the Buddha gave), the Buddha always emphasized loving-kindness. Over the years, I’ve come to use the word “warm-heartedness” as the best approximation for metta because it denotes the type of loving-kindness or “basic affection” (as His Holiness the Dalai Lama says) that not only can arise between people but also between people and animals, and can even be experienced by humans generally in nature or even when we are all alone.
So, forget trying to meditate on “looooove.” Try “warm-heartedness” or “friendliness” instead.