During the first week of February we explored ways to practice Ahimsa (non-violence) towards ourselves.  In this second week, we start to develop our skills of ahimsa with others in our life.  Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas, or ethical rules of Yoga.  Meditation assists us in examining patterns in our lives that we keep repeating over and over.  Negative self talk, blaming others for things that go wrong in our lives, and oh yes, let’s throw in a healthy dose of judging others, are all things that can become amplified as we sit in meditation. These are all patterns that we first need to identify and observe, then start to change.  Breaking old habits is hard, but possible.   A loving kindness or metta meditation helps us to redirect those negative thoughts towards ourselves, towards others, and replace them with positive thoughts.  Sharon Salzberg, a co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society teaches that the words that you use for a loving kindness meditation, are not as important as making sure the words have meaning for you.  If you are sitting in meditation and find your mind circling in negativity, try this practice.  Feel free to substitute your own words so that they feel relevant to your world. First repeat the phrases towards yourself, then direct them to someone you have a positive relationship with, then to a neutral party, to someone with whom you may have a challenging relationship, then finally to all beings everywhere.
Find a comfortable position to sit in and close your eyes. Perform a scan of the body, from the head to your toes, letting go of holding or effort.  Allow your breathing to become relaxed and easy.  Repeat the following phrases in your head several times in a gentle way. Allow your mind to rest in the statements.
Loving Kindness to Yourself: May I be happy.  May I be healthy.  May I be free from pain and suffering.
Loving Kindness Towards Someone who has had a Positive Influence in your Life: May you be happy.  May you be healthy.  May you be free from pain and suffering.
Loving Kindness Towards a Neutral Party: May you be happy.  May you be healthy.  May you be free from pain and suffering.
Loving Kindness Towards a Challenging Person in your Life: May you be happy.  May you be healthy.  May you be free from pain and suffering. (Sharon Salzberg reminds us that practicing loving kindness does not condone another person’s actions. Start with someone where your relationship is just slightly challenging.)
Loving Kindness Towards all Beings: May all beings be happy.  May all beings be healthy.  May all beings be free from pain and suffering.
Notice as you perform this metta meditation over time if your natural inclination starts to shift from negative to positive thoughts.  Negativity won’t poof, go away, but you may start to see loving thoughts edging in.  Changing how our mind navigates the world is a very important to living with ahimsa.
For more information on Loving Kindness Meditation follow this link to an article and audio recording by Sharon Salzberg.
This article was written by Janet Carscadden PT, DPT, E-RYT, Owner of Evolution PT and Yoga.

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