Namaste, Hakuna Matata (fewer worries, be happier!)
I lived a 24/ 7 spiritual life in a yoga ashram from 1984-1996. KARMA Yoga, or selfless service, took us through 8 hours of the day. Yoga and meditation practices occurred from 5-6:30 am, three meals per day eaten in meditative silence, afternoon yoga and meditation practices from 4:15-5:45 pm, followed by evening meditation, discourse, and chanting. In that era, there was no real scientific, medical research or data to show that we were on to something remarkable. We were considered the Kripalu cult on the hill. We used to paint the walls, serve the guests, cook the meals and wonder: “Could yoga and meditation ever one day become mainstream?” Nowadays I recall our ardent desire to love, serve, surrender - sans pay check –and I observe the ways the world has caught up in some ways, at least in the field of academe and scientific research! Now if you google Meditation Research, you will see enormous amounts of literature on the topic. A brave new world…
With the national political climate getting more extreme and divisive, hate crimes adding up, and so many people living in fear and unrest, there could not be a better time to jumpstart our yoga and meditation practice, coupled with a focus on positive psychology. If you already have a practice, and/ or go to yoga class, great! I recommend a class that has a spirit of kindness as soon as you walk in the door, a compassionate, knowledgeable teacher, a practice that includes both breath and meditation, rather than simply barreling through a bunch of intense poses without the true meaning of yoga to back them up. In my opinion, a good ongoing yoga class should include the ancient core ethical practices of yoga, the Yamas and Niyamas, as well as Metta Meditation (more on that below).
I have noticed four themes that a good yoga experience should offer:
A heart that is happier
A mind that is calmer and more serene
A spirit that is refreshed and ready to live in the world with new habits
A body refreshed by time-honored practices of yoga and breath
As our “brave new world” roils around us, with both national and international unrest, I increasingly find that my life’s work in yoga, dance, and meditation, coupled with the extraordinary field of Positive Psychology, are crucial To Dos for sanity and clarity.
Here are a few things I can offer you, if you seeking solace and serenity:
For me, Metta Meditation, the ancient Buddhist practice of lovingkindness, is essential. Metta gives us the opportunity to send lovingkindness to ourselves and all beings. When I teach, I include metta both at the beginning and end of practice. The research on lovingkindness practice is extensive. I use primarily the work and teachings of the greatest living instructors on the earth: my teacher Sylvia Boorstein (her book Pay Attention for Goodness Sake is filled with teachings on metta), Pema Chodron (her writings on meditation are prolific) Sharon Salsburg (author of LovingKindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, and The Real Happiness, the Power of Meditation), Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Thich Nhat Hahn, and the Dali Lama himself. There are many other next generation teachers, some from the positive psychology world: our very own Tal Ben-Shahar, Sonja Lyubormirsky, Barbara Fredrickson, researcher Kristin Neff of the University of Texas whose work and research on self-compassion shows that those who practice self-love suffer less depression.
Here is one metta resolve created by Sylvia Boorstein. With her permission, I rewrote the third line. It’s a limerick, so you can easily memorize it. It bears repeating for a lifetime – or lifetimes, if you believe there are more lives to come!
May you be protected and safe
May you feel contented and pleased
May your body – mind – spirit be lifted in Grace
May your life unfold smoothly with ease
Speaking of memorization, here is the latest Rilke poem I memorized in honor of going within and seeing the light from within the darkness. Rilke writes:
You darkness, of whom I am born,
I love you more than the flame that limits
the world to the circle it inhabits,
and excludes all the rest.
But the dark embraces everything:
Shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people and nations – just as they are.
It lets me imagine a great presence stirring beside me.
I am in love with the night.
There are so many tools to guide us on our way. Here are some more offerings which you can find on my website (the last one on Kripalu's).
- My state-of-the art DVD, Intro to Yoga and Meditation.
- My book, Expanding Joy: Let Your Yoga Dance, Embodying Positive Psychology, a book which includes Metta, the chakras (body’s energy centers) the Yamas and Niyamas, as well as the Wholebeing Institute’s SPIRE method of Positive Psychology.
- My weekend program: Introduction to Yoga and Meditation. Can you give yourself the gift of one weekend for yourself, being in the company of like-minded people seeking solace, clarity, serenity, self-knowledge, peace, de-stressing, and some added love for self and others? Kripalu Center, April 21-23. For newbies and yoga practitioners alike.
- The exciting Embodied Positive Psychology summit, May 1-4. Join me and other presenters in what promises to be an inspirational and moving event (pun intended!). I will be presenting immediately after Howard Martin with his Heartmath. I’ll invite the group to explore embodied Heart intelligence in community. I look forward to this remarkable time together, May 1-4.
So! Much love to you on this spring day. Let’s be mindful of all the spring sounds in the air, while sending metta to our own hearts, and the hearts of all beings.
Megha Nancy Buttenheim, M.A., E-RYT 1000, is CEO and Founding Director of Let Your Yoga Dance® LLC, and author of Expanding Joy: Let Your Yoga Dance, Embodying Positive Psychology. A lifelong singer, dancer, and actor, Megha is a long-time teacher-trainer at Kripalu Center where she has trained thousands of people in yoga, holistic health, and dancing yoga. She is director of movement and meditation with the Wholebeing Institute, and has created interventions to bring the teachings of Positive Psychology into the body through Let Your Yoga Dance. Megha also leads trainings for those wishing to teach Special Populations, as well as kids and teens. Megha’s credo: Everyone is a Dancer.