I’ve been thinking about kindness and the idea of defaulting to kindness? What if every time we were hard on ourselves, we didn’t overthink it, we just told ourselves it was ok – ok that we forgot to be somewhere, that we forgot to do something, that we said something we regret. What if every time we thought of doing something nice for someone we didn’t overthink it, we just did it — gave out that compliment, carried those groceries, offered to share.
In yogic philosophy there is a term called Ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-harming and in some translations kindness. One of my favorite meditations to practice and share is a Loving Kindness meditation (practice is below) where we first send happiness, freedom, and love to a person, being, or animal we love, then to a person we are ambivalent about, then to a person we are in conflict with, and then to ourselves and then to the world. This is a meditation that comes from the Buddhist tradition – also called a Metta meditation. I used to be a little bit skeptical of this meditation. Could my sending kindness really reach anyone? Was it really making a difference? Then I realized the meditation was about about cultivating kindness within myself from the inside out. That’s why I love this meditation, it is still a meditation where we build the skill of concentration by focusing our attention on sending happiness, freedom, and love — but it also starts to change our perception. We meditate on something bigger than ourselves. As we cultivate love within ourselves, we become more positive, expansive, and loving. It gets easier to default to kindness.
As a yoga therapist, I find this meditation is helpful for some clients experiencing depression and social anxiety. There is also a good amount of research regarding how metta meditation can help with social anxiety, marital conflict, anger, and coping with the strains of long-term caregiving.
Loving Kindness Meditation (Below, Chapel Hill, December 2022)