Last night in my weekly yoga class, we explored metta meditation during our seated practice. I had heard of the practice before, during my dabbles in various yoga forms. Essentially, metta means loving kindness. The way that the teacher explained it is the extension of the feeling of loving kindness out into the world. What I liked best about the meditation is that metta starts with yourself. In order to practice metta, we must first feel loving kindness toward ourselves, and then progressively extend it out into the world.
While it might sound like airy-fairy ramblings to the skeptics among us, I think that the idea of metta is a very topical one. How often do we thank ourselves for all that we do in a day? Personally, I rarely take the occasion to honour my body, mind and spirit. Since beginning to tap into the potential of yogic meditation, I’ve been taking that time and reaping the benefits. Beginning to embrace metta in my life is key in my personal recovery journey. Much of my struggle has had to do with my unwillingness to respect the person I am, the inability to recognize my achievements and, frankly, a self-hatred rather than self-love.
Before learning about metta and other such practices, I honestly believed that to love myself was selfish. I thought that I could love others without extending the same courtesy to myself. And I was very wrong. In fact, metta preaches the opposite- before extending a feeling of loving kindness to friends, acquaintances, strangers, even to those who have wronged you in the past, you must extend a feeling of loving kindness to yourself. In the context of “real life”, this makes a lot of sense. The happiest people I’ve known are those who care for themselves and create that oh-so-essential balance between being a caretaker and being cared for. I strive for balance in all aspects of my life, and this is no different.
So, while I’m far from being able to fully love myself for exactly who I am, I like to think that taking the time to love and honour myself for at least the length of my meditation is a step in the right direction. As my yoga teacher says:
May we be happy
May we be peaceful and at ease
May we be free from suffering
May we be well.