“In daily life we see people around who are happier than we are, people who are less happy… Whatever may be our usual attitude toward such people and their actions, if we can be pleased with others who are happier than ourselves…our mind will be very tranquil.” — Sutra 1.33, T.K.V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga
“It is never too late or too early to practice loving-kindness. It is said that we can’t attain enlightenment, let alone feel contentment and joy, without seeing who we are and what we do, without seeing our patterns and our habits. This is called maitri – developing lovingkindness and an unconditional friendship with ourselves.” —Pema Chodron
Here are some ways you might practice the yama maitri:
- Cultivating the Opposite. You can use thoughts of loving-kindness as your “opposite thoughts” (see Putting the Wisdom of Yoga into Practice).
- Acts of Friendship. Though acts of unconditional friendship, small and large, you can support the happiness of others.
- Loving-Kindness Meditation. You can either use a guided loving-kindness meditation that you find in a book or recording. Or you can choose your own phrases of loving-kindness in your meditation as you picture first yourself, someone you love, a neutral person, and finally a difficult person.
My student Jacqueline, whose suffering over her online shopping I described in Letting Go, Part 1, realized during her self-enquiry she was very hard on herself for “slipping up” whenever she bought anything that she considered strictly unnecessary. So, she decided to practice her own, customized version of the Loving-Kindness meditation to cultivate kindness toward herself. As she thought of living with ease, she imagined letting go of the burden of thinking she was like her father. And she added this following phrase to the meditation: “May I be kind to myself and others.”
“We are human, we take wrong turns sometimes, but it’s the wrong turns that teach us how to move forward more skillfully. Self-compassion about our imperfections, and [compassion about] the imperfections of others, brings relief.”
- Cultivating the Opposite. You can use compassionate thoughts as your “opposite thoughts” (see Putting the Wisdom of Yoga into Practice).
- Helping Others. Take any appropriate actions to help individuals who are suffering or organizations that support them. Offer your emotional support, your time, your skills, your money, or anything else that might help. To practice this compassion in action the yogic way, follow the path of Karma Yoga (see The Path of Karma Yoga (Selfless Service)).
- Compassion Meditation. In a compassion meditation, you focus on a person or a group of people who are suffering or experiencing difficulty, and then wish for a positive outcome for them. You can make up your own or look for a formal compassion meditation.
In her post Dissolving Family-Related Anger with Yoga , Charissa Loftis says that she was finally able to let go of her anger at her father, a Vietnam War veteran, by cultivating compassion for her him and taking action to relieve his suffering by giving him yoga therapy for his COPD.
- Cultivating the Opposite. You can use thoughts of sympathetic joy as your “opposite thoughts” (see Putting the Wisdom of Yoga into Practice).
- Celebrating Others. Engage in actions that support and celebrate the achievements of others.
- Mudita Meditation. In a mudita meditation, you mentally recite phrases of sympathetic joy, such as “I’m happy for you” and “May your happiness continue” as you picture first someone you love, then a person for whom you have neutral feelings, and finally a difficult person. If you’re interested, look for a formal mudita meditation.
Cultivating Equanimity (Upeksanam or Upeksa)
- Letting Go. To let go of hatred, anger, and other negative emotions you feel toward the non-virtuous, you can use any appropriate techniques described in Letting Go, Part 1.
- Forgiveness. For those who have hurt you or others you care about, you can cultivate kshama, yoga’s yama of forgiveness that is a form of letting go (see Forgiveness (Kshama)).
- Concentration Meditation. You can cultivate more evenness of mind by meditating with a focus on peace, for example, by using the mantra Om Shanti or Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. And during this practice, if negative feelings arise, you can let them go as you return your focus to mediating on peace.
- Mindfulness Meditation. Teachers of mindfulness meditation say that you can dissipate some negative feelings if you focus on them during your practice. The simple act of paying close attention to them can reduce their power.