Contemporary psychology often talks about the benefit of having a positive outlook to help keep mentally healthy. It teaches us to be optimistic and grateful to improve our outlook on life. This practice has ancient roots. Patanjali (dubbed the father of yoga) prescribes 4 bhavanas or qualities for the spiritual seeker. These are service with compassion (karuna), friendliness (maitri), an attitude of joy (mudita) and non-attachment (upeksha). These four elements make up universal kindness and considering them in our daily lives help make life easier for ourselves and those around us.
When we set a positive intention for ourselves or for others at the beginning of a yoga class, we are focussing our minds and looking to something bigger than ourselves. When this has a devotional element, we transcend all religions and get in touch with our higher self or consciousness.
During our yoga practice, it is important to be friendly to ourselves, to be kind and loving, to keep ourselves safe and to begin to explore our inner world. Harsh self-talk makes that much harder. Lokha samastah sukhino bhavantu is a Sanskrit sloka or prayer that is often chanted at the end of a yoga practice. It means “may everyone in the whole world be happy.” It can be chanted or meditated upon and offered as a prayer for the whole world. This increases our feelings of maitri and mudita as we send this positivity out into the world.
In Buddhism these same qualities are called the four immeasurables (Bhramaviravas) and the Pali only differs a little from the Sanskrit; maitri is metta and refers to loving kindness and upeksha is upekkha. Buddhists see them as four elements of true love and there is a wonderful meditation called metta bhavana which is really helpful for developing metta.
At Breathe, friendliness, kindness and a sense of equanimity are qualities that we look for in our teachers.
There are many variations of wording in the loving kindness meditation, but I particularly love Sharon Salzberg’s words.
“May I be safe, be happy, be healthy, live with ease”.
Repeat these 3 times directing this love and kindness to yourself. Then think of someone you love, who brings you joy and repeat the words. Repeat thinking of someone neutral; this could be someone in your local shop, your postman, whoever springs to mind. Then repeat with someone who you find tricky or irritating or have a dispute with. If this proves difficult then send the words back to yourself to help you soothe you in this relationship. Finally send out the words to the whole world and then back again to yourself.
This is a brief synopsis of a powerful technique but if you search ‘metta bhavana’ or loving kindness meditation online there are lots of variations to help you.
My intention for this blog is that by setting positive intentions, whilst chanting or meditating and paying kind attention to yourself on your mat and in your life that you will be filled with friendliness and loving kindness for yourself and the world.