8 limbs of yoga

Happy, well, and full of peace: metta meditation

yoga and meditation-peace-metta-self love

"If we extend the force of love, love will return to us.”

This week I led the practice of Metta meditation to the teacher training group I am with in Thailand.

Metta is described as loving kindness.  It is a practice to become better friends with yourself.  It is practiced for a few minutes after Vipassana meditation because if any past karma or old wounds arise during Vipassana, you can soothe yourself with the metta.

We begin metta first with ourselves.  This is the essential foundation of offering genuine love to others.

The practice develops in levels from:

Self Benefactor (Close friend, partner or teacher) Friend Neutral Person Enemy/ Conflicting Person

Through these levels, we learn not to denigrate ourselves to uphold another person’s happiness.

To practice metta:  Close your eyes, contact a sense of love and compassion within yourself.  Imagine that love washing over your body.  What does it look like?  Does it have a color?  A temperature?  Now imagine sending yourself that love and repeat to yourself, “May I be happy, may I be well, may I be full of peace.”

Now move on to a close friend, teacher or partner.  Choose someone who brings about a great sense of love within you.  Imagine sending the metta to him or her and repeat,  “May he or she be happy, well and full of peace.”

Continue the practice, with a friend, neutral person, and finally, a person who has caused conflict in your life.  The idea of metta is to hold a place of loving kindness even for (and especially for) these people.

Through metta, we learn to walk in friendship with ourselves and with all beings. We are planting the seeds of peace and happiness that will bare fruit with time.  By opening to the love within us, we open to the love that is there, all around us.

Some benefits of the metta practice include:

1)   You will sleep easily

2)   You will wake easily

3)   You will have pleasant dreams

4)   People will love you

5)   Devas (celestial beings) and animals will love you

6)   Devas will protect you

7)   External dangers will not harm you

8)   Your face will be radiant

9)   Your mind will be serene

10) You will die unconfused

11) You will be reborn in happy realms

May you be happy, may you be well, may you be full of peace.  



Why I Practice Yoga

yoga and meditation-compassion-8 limbs of yoga

This piece of writing came to me the morning after a dream. In the dream, someone very close to me died, and I was left to console those left behind by this person. I was forced to think and talk about the nature of life and death - something we rarely talk about openly in Western culture. I realized the ancient sages and yogis that fully devoted their life to their yoga; their salvation, were fully connected to the brevity of their life and the impermanence of their body. I realized at my most deep level, this is why I practice yoga.

--------------------------- I practice yoga because I know one day, I am going to die. I say yoga, because it is more than an asana practice. In the yoga sutras, Patanjali describes 8 limbs of yoga: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Practiced together, they are a way of life.

I know my body's impermanence. I practice yoga, I live my yoga, for my soul. I live my yoga so my soul will progress in this life, and have less lives to live.

Compassion and kindness. Kindness and compassion.

We come back to this Earth to cultivate compassion and kindness in our lives. We take on this body again and again to live out our karma, open to our sankharas and tear through samsara.

When I feel lost, yoga is my saviour. It reminds me to lean into life, and draw my aversions closer. It reminds me to close my eyes and find that ever-renewing source of silence. Yoga pulls me out of the limitations and pains of this body world, drawing me ever closer to my heart.

And when my body is in pain, yoga is my friend. Yoga comforts me, accepts me as I am, and allows me to rest. Yoga opens me to a greater capacity to love myself.

When I am afraid, yoga holds all of those fears and lets me decide when the time is right to open that door. Yoga eases me into facing those fears and shows me the light that exists on the other side.

When I am lonely, yoga reminds me of the power and beauty in my alone-ness. I learn to steep in that beauty until I become strong.

When I feel disconnected, yoga reminds me of devotion and prayer. Devotion to something much bigger than myself that I may never fully understand. Prayer to intimately connect with that divine mystery - that powerful force that listens to where I am, where I have been, and where I need to go from here.

When I am faced with discomfort, yoga reminds me: this is an opportunity to grow.

When I feel incomplete and imperfect, yoga reminds me I am whole, and perfection only arises from that wholeness

And in those times of peace and wholeness, yoga opens me to bliss. Yoga realigns my body and lifts my spirit back to what is my natural state.

And through all of this, yoga reminds me to reconnect to my breath. A reminder to come back to my own aliveness and to find gratitude there. Gratitude for all of the lessons and the pain, because those lessons and pain made me into who I am today.

My yoga is more than a practice. My yoga permeates my breath, it is with me in my dreams, and it reminds me to open to the world each morning I wake.