What the World Needs Now

It’s been a harrowing few weeks. Among protests, marches, crying, comforting, writing, and calling, I have come to a realization, something I am only able to crystallize now, but that I have known all this time: this country has an empathy problem. I say this while knowing full well that so many of us – especially in wellness spaces – understand the need for advocacy. But even then, I am learning, we need to go deeper with our ability to not only speak out, but also to listen. We need to empathize with our ears and with our hearts with plights that we alone may not have personally faced. And, hardest of all, we need to develop the capacity to act from a place of empathy.

When I did my first yoga teacher training in 2011, I struggled with meditation big time. I was perfectly content doing vinyasa yoga all day, but when a meditation teacher came in and told us to sit still and focus on the breath, I felt all sorts of I think I’m doing this wrong. Then, a fellow student in the training who seemed to embody loving-kindness taught us Metta (loving-kindness meditation). There was something about Metta that stuck with me on a deep level. This week, as I’ve practiced it on the subway every day to work and led my third grade students in the practice as well, I realized that Metta develops empathy inside the heart space through its very structure.

Here is how to do it on your own.

  1. Find a comfortable seat. When I say that this seat can be anywhere as long as you’re comfortable and your feet are planted firmly into the ground, I mean it.
  2. Tune into the breath. Notice the inhales and the exhales. Allow for something that is typically so passive to become an active experience.
  3. Visualize yourself at a moment that you felt like your best. Now, repeat silently to yourself three times:

May I be safe.

May I be healthy.

May I be happy.

May I live a life of ease.

4. Visualize someone you love. Now, repeat silently to yourself three times:

May they be safe.

May they be healthy.

May they be happy.

May they live a life of ease.

5. Visualize a neutral person / a group of people. For this one, I find it helpful to choose a group of people in the world that I know is suffering because of the current political climate. Repeat silently to yourself three times:

May they be safe.

May they be healthy.

May they be happy.

May they live a life of ease.

6. Visualize a person / group of people you resent. Repeat silently to yourself three times:

May they be safe.

May they be healthy.

May they be happy.

May they live a life of ease.

7. Now, visualize a sea of all of those people coming together and more. Repeat silently to yourself three times:

May we be safe.

May we be healthy.

May we be happy.

May we live lives of ease.

8. Return to the self. Repeat three times:

May I be safe.

May I be healthy.

May I be happy.

May I live a life of ease.

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