Yoga Week Five: Loving Kindness

According to the Metta Sutta, a Buddhist discourse, the brahma-viharas represent the most beautiful and hopeful aspects of humanity: loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity. Mindfulness practices, like meditation and yoga, can help focus intention on each of these.

In our fifth yoga class, we are introduced to the concept of loving kindness, or Metta, through a series of prayer-like offerings.

May you be safe.
May you be healthy.
May you be joyful.
May you be free.

In a continuous wave of movement, poses, and breath, we offer Metta to someone we love deeply, someone for whom we feel neutral, and someone who challenges us.

I think of my dear friend who I carry deep in my heart. Her burden is heavy today – full of decisions and transitions. I feel its weight as if it were my own, and whisper:

May you be safe.
May you be healthy.
May you be joyful.
May you be free.

I think of my neighbor, whom I had seen as I was leaving for class. She’s a creative, interesting woman I wish I saw more often, and I say:

May you be safe.
May you be healthy.
May you be joyful.
May you be free.

I think of the angry man whose venom seeps across our town in the form of spiteful campaign signs. They hurt my heart when I see them, but I think of him and say with conviction:

May you be safe.
May you be healthy.
May you be joyful.
May you be free.

At the end, we are asked to offer Metta to ourselves, and in unison we repeat:

May I be safe.
May I be healthy.
May I be joyful.
May I be free.

As we lie in Savasana at the end of class, our instructor reads a lovely quote by author and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. While I don’t remember the exact quote, I offer you this one for contemplation:

“Loving kindness is a form of love that truly is an ability…. It is the ability to take some risks with our awareness – to look at ourselves and others with kindness instead of reflexive criticism; to include in our concern those to whom we normally pay no attention; to care for ourselves unconditionally…. It is the ability to gather our attention and really listen to others…. It is the ability to see the humanity in people we don’t know and the pain in people we find difficult.”

– Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation

Namaste

• • •

For more on Metta, or Loving Kindness, you can visit Sharon’s website, or check out this great explanation of the Metta meditation from the Yale School of Medicine.

SEE ALSO:
Yoga Week One: It Will Come
Yoga Week Two: When Yoga is Only Part of the Big Picture
Yoga Week Three: Applying Stillness
Yoga Week Four: Still There is Joy
Yoga Week Five: Loving Kindness
Yoga Week Six: In Your Bones

8 thoughts on “Yoga Week Five: Loving Kindness

  1. “to see the humanity in people we don’t know and the pain in people we find difficult” – seems like such a tall order, but i would sure like to give it a go… thanks for the enlightened point of view!

    1. It was certainly an interesting process – the focus on a person of challenge was particularly challenging. But I will tell you, driving back through town after class? I had much more compassion than I did driving TO class!

    1. Reading some of Sharon Salzberg’s writing, this practice encourages us to having loving kindness first for ourselves so we can look after others, and then…begin to understand that I am connected to you are connected to the ones we love are connected to the ones who challenge us are connected to everyone. Fascinating!

  2. I’ve been practicing and loving the lovingkindness chant for years I do the slightly different version that Jack Kornfield put in Path with Heart. This practice sounds lovely. Thanks.

    1. I did not ice there were a number of variations on the chant. I think I liked the poetry and simplicity of this one – but I will have to check out Jack Kornfield’s version, and book! Thanks for the reference!

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