Have you ever noticed that when you feel good about yourself, the world around seems like a kinder, better place? And equally that when you are in a bad mood or feeling deeply self critical, the world around you suddenly seems malevolent and threatening? Lucy McCarthy explains why this is and what we can do about it.
One of my great philosophy teachers Rose Baudin, once said,
‘We do not see the world as it is, but as we are.’
Those words have continued to ring true for me in the many years since I first heard it. And the practice of yoga can shine a light on the way we view and react to the world and our habitual responses.
‘We do not see the world as it is, but as we are.’
So what does that really mean? What does it point to?
Well for me it is that our personal experiences of mind and body directly effect how we move through the world. If we never question or look into this we can often assume that ‘our’ personal view of the world is the only one that exists.
And then we can find ourselves pushing out against the world and those around us from that point of view, without realising it is just a unique personal lens that each of us look at the world through each day.
Which is why, for example, when a wonderful thing happens in your life, such as falling in love, your spirits are usually so exalted and elevated that your whole world view is too. Suddenly everyone and everything around you impart great joy, when just a short time ago you were irked and annoyed by it all.
All this leads us back to our sense of self
The relationship we have with ourselves is truly the most important and foundational relationship that exists in our lives. It has most potential to either positively or negatively affect our experience of the world.
So where does Loving Kindness come into all this?
Well, loving kindness or ‘metta’ as it was originally called in the Buddhist tradition that it arose from is a form of meditation that helps us cultivate ‘loving kindness’ and compassion for both ourselves and others.
For me it has been one of the most profound meditations I have practiced over the years.
The concept of ‘loving kindness’ is not unique to Buddhism alone. It is a concept that arises in almost all major religions of the world, which indicates that across time and space ‘loving kindness’ and the cultivation of compassion are acts that humanity values and deeply needs.
In Christianity, for example, you have the concept of loving kindness documented as far back as 1535.
Jainism too has the Sanskrit term ‘Maitri’ from Yogabindu, the 6th-century Jain yogic text. So it is a practice that has long historic roots and has been practiced by people of many traditions and eras.
Loving Kindness Meditation
There are many different forms and exact variations of a Loving Kindness meditation but what it usually involves is focusing first on yourself – sending a wish for peace, wellness, health and happiness to yourself, then you repeat this process with someone you dearly love and value in your life, then on someone you may come across frequently in your life but don’t actually know such as your local shopkeeper and lastly you focus on someone in your life you may be challenged by and to send them too these well wishes.
I have to offer myself good wishes?!
What I love about the practice is that it begins with oneself, and our relationship with ourselves. And what is interesting is that often we are surprised by how hard we find it to sincerely offer good wishes to ourself, revealing perhaps a latent underlying belief we have about ourselves that we are not worthy of well wishes.
This is interesting terrain as yogis to navigate and initially we may feel we are saying these sentiments without fully embodying them but over time I have found my relationship with myself has been deeply softened, improved and enhanced by this practice.
… And someone I don’t like?!
Then the next challenge people often face with the practice is attempting to sincerely and wholeheartedly offer well wishes to someone in our lives we are currently have difficulty with.
Again, initially, in the early stages of practice it may feel that you can’t fully embody offering these well wishes to this person sincerely. However, what I have found over years of practice is that it has resulted in a softness arising within me. There is a slow embodied realisation that above all our differences, this tricky person and I have more in common than we have in difference.
Ultimately we are all human beings, doing our best at living in the world, all of us susceptible to pain and suffering. Once that realisation starts to set in a fountain of greater understanding and compassion starts to well up. Furthermore, your narrow singular self orientated view slowly starts to open up to be able to be broader and fully encompass others’ experience of the world as well as our own.
Intrigued? Fancy giving it a go?
Below is a very simple script to follow to get you started in Loving Kindness meditation. Feel free to tweak and change it to what really resonates and works for you.
Find a quiet, undisturbed place to sit. Either on the floor with cushions elevating your hips higher than your knees or on a chair. Whatever feels most comfortable for you and allows you to have a tall spine. Start by taking a few slow, deep breaths and tuning into the flow of your breath.
Then bring your awareness to yourself and offer up the below 4 statements silently internally to yourself with as much sincerity as you can muster! Repeat 3 times.
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May I be well in body and mind.
May I be at ease and happy.
Then repeat the same thing with someone you dearly love in your life, offering them these phrases. Then repeat with someone in your life you seen often but don’t actually know, then lastly repeat with someone you are challenged by currently in your life.
At the end, pause, allow whatever unfolded to be as it is. No judgement on how sincerely you managed to express these statements to self or other. Just trust in the fact that you made the time and commitment to sit and cultivate loving kindness and compassion for self and other.
Practice as much as you like, but know like all practices, the more you dive into it the more it will deepen and be enriched.
Have you ever met people who just seem so happy in their own skin?
They are so accepting of themselves that in their presence you find yourself feeling deeply accepted and celebrated for all that you are? I love this kind of person and have drawn as many as I can close into my inner circle.
What I sense is that these people have either been graced with a solid, kind loving sense of self – or they have worked to cultivate one. Thus they are able to meet others with a wide open heart that trusts in both their own and the others innate goodness and value.
When we all start to radiate this out then I believe our world will really start to change and be deeply benefitted.
So the next time someone triggers you or you are challenged by them, pause for a moment before reacting, or getting drawn into the drama of it. See if you can reflect on the many ways you are united by your similarities and communalities to a far greater degree than your differences. And if you can, go home that day and invite them to be part of your ‘Loving Kindess’ meditation practice. You may just be astonished with the outcomes!
With great love and compassion xxx Lucy xxx
Why not treat yourself to a retreat with Lucy?
Sardinia Destination Yoga Retreat 27 July- 3 August. Details here.
Northern Spain Destination Yoga Retreat 11-18 October Details here.
Alchemy of the Heart Yoga & Philosophy Immersion Retreat 6-14 September, South of France. Details here.
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Lucy teaches Vinyasa flow, pregnancy and restorative yoga to the masses. Yoga from and for the heart. Yoga for happiness, fun and healing. For more info visit www.lucyogi.com