It probably goes without saying that kindness is a good thing. If someone is kind to you, it makes you feel good. When you feel good, you’re more likely to be kind to others. And so on. As yogis, we know that setting an intention is one way to keep us on track, whatever the goal, so why not do this with kindness by practicing loving kindness meditation?
The Yoga of Kindness
A respected yoga teacher once pointed out that while being able to flow and stretch has benefits, it’s of little value if we’re not able to open our hearts and let love flow in and out. To truly practice yoga, we must include practices that improve how we relate to ourselves and the world.
Even if we want to be kind, most of us fall from time to time. We can be negative and lash out at others, often innocent bystanders, especially our loved ones, who happen to get in the way of our frustration or bad mood.
It’s easier to be kind when we’re aware of the kindness of others. We can use loving kindness meditation to help us tune in to kindness and see it more clearly. Start by simply noticing when people are kind to you. Notice small things, like when someone allows you to get in front of her at the grocery store because you only have one item. Notice when your colleagues are pleasant, or when your spouse offers to help you out by running an errand. Notice when anyone in your life takes time to thank you or recognize something you’ve done that’s helpful or kind.
Practicing Loving Kindness Meditation
Setting time aside to meditate on kindness is another way to attract more kindness and love into your life. And by love, I simply mean connection—the idea that we are working together as a community, not competing with each other or rejecting each other out of fear.
Loving kindness meditation, which comes from the Buddhist tradition, is usually done in three parts. First, to extend loving kindness to yourself, then to a loved one, and then to all beings everywhere.
Begin as you would begin any meditation, by finding a quiet place to be still and settling into a comfortable position. Take a few deep breaths to quiet the mind. Then, direct loving thoughts to yourself, such as:
May I be peaceful. May I be happy. May I live fully and with love.
Repeat the words slowly, several times.
Next think of a loved one, perhaps someone who is going through a difficult time and is especially in need of loving kindness. Spend a few moments directing the thoughts to that person.
May you be peaceful. May you be happy. May you live fully and with love.
Finally, direct the thoughts to all being everywhere.
May all beings be peaceful. May all beings be happy. May all being live fully and with love.
You can, of course, vary the words. The point is simply to extend a wish for love, kindness, and the desire for peace and happiness to all beings, including yourself. The more you purposefully look for kindness, the more you will experience it in your own life, and the more able you will be to extend it to others. Try it and see how it can change your life.