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A Little Love, A Little Kindness Go A Long Way July 22, 2010

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Fitness, Health, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Philosophy, Science, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Yoga.

“Two households, both alike in dignity” – Romeo and Juliet, opening line by William Shakespeare

A statement Kim Jeblick made at a recent Dharma Yoga workshop really stuck with me: the first words in a Sanskrit text are the most important; everything else comes from those first words.

It seems to me that the same can be said about a Shakespearean text. Take for example, Romeo and Juliet: a tragedy which starts off by reinforcing the fact that these two groups of people are exactly the same. Sure, we eventually learn one family has a daughter, one a son; but, each family clearly loves their own child wholeheartedly and wishes them the very best. At the beginning of the play, the lovers feel safe, secure, happy, peaceful, and healthy enough to be curious. They see in each other a mirror, a soul mate, someone who comes from the same place and wants the same things out of life. Of course, the tragedy is that the families don’t see the same thing. The families forget the opening line; they get hooked and start focusing on their differences rather than on their similarities.

In our own lives, we are simultaneously the lovers and their families. We are surrounded by our own image, mirrored in the visages of others. When we recognize the best part of ourselves in another, we become curious, try to get to know them, and we wish them the best of everything. A lot of times, however, we focus on the differences – and, just like in the play, conflict arises.

Here’s a question to consider: Does conflict always result in tragedy?

Shakespeare would say no, and wrote the comedies to prove it. Some of the people who had the privilege of seeing Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending! at the Capital Fringe Festival this month would also say no.

What about in your own life: How often are your personal conflicts resolved amicably and without hard feelings? Keep in mind, every real life tragedy does not automatically end in bloodshed. In fact, the biggest tragedies we experience on a regular basis are (1) not recognizing ourselves in others (i.e., not recognizing someone worthy of our love) and (2) not wishing the very best to someone we love just because we don’t agree with something they’ve said or done. Historically, Metta Meditation can be seen as a prescription for conflict resolution.

LOKAH – World(s); habitat(s); planets; universe; plane of existence; people; all living beings

SAMASTA – All inclusive; all kinds of (root word: “sama” = same)

SUKHINO – Happy; very happy (root word: “sukha” = happiness, delight, joy, pleasure, comfort)

BHAVANTU – Let them become; they will have to; may there be

Mettā (Pāli; Devanagari: मेत्ता) or Maitrī (Sanskrit) meditation is a way to offer loving-kindness, friendship, benevolence. Most people are familiar with seated or walking meditations, traditional to Buddhist traditions. Some Buddhist traditions also do a written meditation. In yoga, meditations are done seated, walking, lying in Savasana, and even during asana. In fact, when practicing 108 Sun Salutations for the equinoxes and solstices, each round can be dedicated in the same way each round of the mettā meditation (described in link below).

Traditionally, the physical practice of yoga (Hatha Yoga), in any form, is a way to prepare the body-mind-spirit for deep meditation. As mentioned above, the physical practice can also BE the meditation. My personal practice has always been a moving meditation so I try to bring that same experience to the classes I teach. Sometimes we add a mantra to the breath (In this case: Inhale Loving; Exhale Kindness). Often I encourage people to view various parts of their body as an extension of their breath, their heart, and sometimes their love. Over the past few weeks I’ve even invited people to visual their love shooting out of their fingers and heels, kind of like in a comic book. It may sound silly, but sometimes we forget arms are meant for hugging. And, everything we do can be an expression of love – especially if we make that our intention.

PRACTICING Mettā (Pāli; Devanagari: मेत्ता) or Maitrī (Sanskrit) Meditation:

Before you begin, familiarize yourself with the meditation breakdown. (NOTE: The Yale School of Medicine website had one of the best breakdowns I’ve seen. That link is now busted; however, the meditation breakdown can be found at this mindfulword.org site.) Review it and the visualization guide below. Once you understand the dedications, give yourself permission to really work on them one at a time. It’s important to notice how you feel (emotionally, mentally, and physically) at each stage. Also, notice how those sensations change as you progress. Regardless of the form you decide to use for your meditation, get comfortable and remember this is a practice.

(BIG TIP: Set an alarm clock so you don’t get distracted thinking about time.)

  1. Get comfortable. Begin by focusing on your breath. Don’t try to control it. Just notice the interaction between your breath and your body. Allow your breath to naturally deepen itself, and to naturally bring you into the present moment. Relax.
  2. Visualize yourself holding a baby. This baby can be a human child, a puppy, a kitten, a duckling. The type of baby doesn’t matter so long as you you find it adorable. Feel the baby’s warmth and the way it snuggles into you. Notice it’s peaceful expression. Now, focus on the baby’s breath. Notice it is deep and steady. See if you can match the baby’s breath, so that your breath becomes deep and steady. Feel the exchange of breath you are sharing with the baby: You each inhale love from one the other; you each exhale kindness to the other. Notice how you feel. Notice how your brow and shoulders soften; how your breath deepens.
  3. Begin to recite the meditation for yourself (out loud or silently). Breath at least one round of breath (deep breath in; deep breath out) between each line. Notice how you react to each offering/blessing/idea. Repeat as needed. If you feel resistance (e.g., distraction, the urge to fidget or scratch an itch), bring your awareness back to your breath and/or practice the 4 R’s (Recognize, Refrain, Relax, Resolve – more on these later) before proceeding.
  4. Visualize how you would feel and appear when you are safe and secure; peaceful and happy; healthy and strong; at ease, etc.
  5. Visualize the person(s) associated with the next round of dedications. Imagine how it would feel to give them a hug and have them hug you back. Steady your breath and feel the exchange of breath (Inhale Love; Exhale Kindness). Begin to recite the meditation accordingly (inserting gender; repeating as desired; and noticing your reaction).
  6. Visualize how the other person(s) feel and appear when safe and secure; peaceful and happy; healthy and strong; at ease, etc.
  7. Repeat steps 6 & 7 for the remaining rounds.  When you get to the round for the “difficult person” consider referring to them as Shiva Rea does: as “precious jewels.” This is a great way to remind yourself that the person who pushes your buttons is valuable. You might even want to use their name. Also, leave space in your visualization for the precious jewel(s) to be shocked by your hug and, maybe, to take a while before hugging you back.
  8. After the final round, chant “Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu: May all beings everywhere be happy and be free. May my thoughts words and deeds somehow contribute to that happiness and that freedom. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om**”

This can be an intense practice. Save time to sit quietly or lie down before moving on with the remainder of your day or night.

May you be happy and free! May this somehow contribute to your happiness and your freedom! Peace, peace, peace (to you and to everyone you encounter)!


Note on translations: Since I am not a Sanskrit scholar, I usually cross reference several sources when I’m looking up Sanskrit translations. I recently came across vedabase.net, which cross references words with their various meanings, as they appear in ancient text (which, of course reminds me of the OED). Naturally, given my lit degree, I am predisposed to consider this a pretty useful resource. (Root word translations from Light on Yoga by B. K. S. Iyengar) (** Om brings supreme awareness/consciousness. “Shanti” means peace. When chanted the last “Shanti” can be extended which essential means, “Peace, because I said so/it!”)


1. Ahma - July 22, 2010

Thanks for sharing it – Does it count when it’s your mom saying, good job. Love YA!

ajoyfulpractice - August 13, 2010

In fact, it counts so much I’m counting it twice! Thank you Ahma! Much love, Myra

2. Kari - August 2, 2010

Thank you for the timely lesson, Myra! …even though I insist on learning it the hard way : ) I’ve got to remember the “refrain” part.

ajoyfulpractice - August 13, 2010

Yep, the “refrain” part is hard for me too. I’ll post more on that later! By the way, thanks for telling me about how sometimes the “hook” sneaks up on you. Remembering that sure helps in the recognition phase! Smile, M

3. Rick - August 4, 2010

~ ☮ l_ღ√Ƹ ♥ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ ♥ l_ღ√Ƹ ☮ ~
Beautiful writing…beautiful practice!!
Rick मेत्ता @ facebook
नमस्ते ~ namaste ~

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