It was a glorious day and a wonderful crowd for the inaugural Wanderlust 108 Mindful Triathlon in Atlanta yesterday. There was a 5K run/walk through beautiful Piedmont Park; an inspiring talk by Keith Mitchell; a rollicking concert by the Good Times Brass Band; and very sweet yoga focused on connection and a healthy dose of fun led by Neda Honarvar, Octavia Raheem, and MC Yogi. I absolutely loved having the opportunity to lead the group meditation. What a view it was to look out on 1,000 students practicing together!
We practiced metta meditation to strengthen our ability to treat others with loving kindness. To get better at running, you have to practice. To get better at asana, you have to practice. To get better at being loving, kind, and compassionate, you have to practice. Just like I’d write a plan for my athletes with workouts to develop strength for hills and ability to maintain race pace, metta is a workout to build your capacity to love.
To practice this mediation, you’ll visualize several people in various categories and send them love and well wishes:
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be whole.
Remember, yoga means union, connection, wholeness.
Various approaches to metta will work in different orders. For the Wanderlust crowd, we started by warming up with the easiest category: loved ones. From a comfortable meditative position, sitting or lying down, imagine someone dear to you. Draw up their image clearly, and send them metta: May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be whole. Then move your attention to another dear one, and repeat your well wishes. Continue for several rounds.
Now check in. How are you feeling? Shift your position if you need to.
For the next category, turn your attention to neutral people—folks you see alongside you on the train or at school pickup; the cashier at the grocery; a bus boy at a restaurant. Visualize them as clearly as you can—this is harder than for the loved ones, of course—and send them metta: May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be whole. Continue for several rounds.
Again, check in, and notice how you feel now. Shift position if you need to.
Next, practice sending loving kindness to yourself. Self-compassion can be very difficult. Try breaking it into smaller pieces, sending love to yourself in your various roles: as a child; as a parent or a mentor; as a friend; as a lover; as a coworker; as an athlete; as a student. Send yourself metta: May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be whole. Continue for several rounds.
Notice the state of your body, mind, and breath now. Again, shift position if you need to.
In running intervals, we always want the last one to be the best. Now that you are fully warmed up to loving kindness, send it to those you may find it difficult to love, people with whom you have conflict. These can be people you know or those you don’t. Draw up the image of one of these people, and notice if the process leads you to tense up. Soften your physical body, and send them metta: May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be whole. Continue for several rounds.
Finally, observe how you feel. See the recipients of your love arrayed all in front of you, and send metta to all of them, either silently or out loud.
To get better, keep practicing! If you have a mala, one nice approach is to choose one person per bead. As you touch the bead, imagine this person and send them loving kindness. You’ll be surprised that you can choose 108 people to love so easily, and you’ll feel more full of compassion and love when you finish.
Please share your experience with this beautiful practice!