Our theme this week, at The Playful Yogi, has focused its energy around the phrase, “I am kind.” Kindness is a tricky thing; we can go from being kind to mean in a matter of moments all because we inadvertently reserve the act of kindness for those we believe to be worthy. And, in-part, we do so for good reason. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve witnessed too many instances (because let’s be honest, in this case, even one instance is too many) in which hate and violence have taken to our streets under the guise of the right to freedom of expression.
The freedom to speak, up and out, was intended to create a feeling of safety in challenging wrongdoing, not in an effort to enact it. Unfortunately, though, in the last year or more a door has been opened to a subset of our population, allowing them to speak up in anger and in favor of hate. This is devastating, and yet, an invaluable lesson: we were convinced that we were on a path to eradicating the despicable, inhumane and entirely incorrect(!) belief that any one group of people are better than any other. And now, our collective eyes have been opened to the very real fact that these kinds of feelings are very much still alive in the hearts of far too many. Of course this sentiment is merely an echo, billions of people have been saying this very thing for several months now, and I could not be more pleased that as a community we are finally starting to be awake to it.
I ask myself daily, “What if?” What if those of us who hate so deeply could find a way to be kind to those on the receiving end of their hate? What would it look like to be kind to the people we care very little, if anything for. This isn’t a plea necessarily to like people for whom we hold strong, or even mild disdain, that’s probably not a realistic goal for anyone, but to choose to be kind, is that out of the realm of possibility? And if so, do you remember that last week we quoted Walt Disney in writing that, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” I should pause to say that I am not asking you to be kind to any hate group! In fact, don’t be kind, be eager and vigilant in standing up against them (peacefully) and doing your best to change their minds.
I do hope that we can all begin to recognize our own biases, which are informed by our circumstance and experiences, and actively choose to be kind to the people we don’t like. In many instances, fear is what stops us from being kind, the fear that what we have will somehow be less or taken away if others have the same opportunities that we have, and it simply isn’t true. We feel as though we are on the receiving end of microaggressions, and as a result we react, often in haste and anger, to those aggressions and we forget to be kind. Here’s where the yoga comes in…
Have you heard of, or practiced, Metta Bhavana, loving kindness meditation, before? Metta meditations are the act of visualizing loving kindness in several parts: first to yourself, second to someone for whom you hold pure, un-possessive love, third to someone you have neutral feelings for (someone who you don’t really know), fourth to someone you dislike and finally to all beings everywhere. According to the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society the following are commonly used Metta Bhavana phrases:
May I be safe from harm.
May I be happy just as I am.
May I be peaceful with whatever is happening.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I care for myself in this ever-changing world graciously, joyously.
With each progression to the next person on your list of Metta Bhavana, add their names (or the phrase all beings everywhere) in place of the word, “I.”
Consider giving it a try, and remember to choose to be kind.