Loving kindness & Ahimsa, if you practise yoga regularly, you’ve probably heard of these before. But, what do loving kindness & Ahimsa actually mean and how can we practise them in our day-to-day life?
There are many types of love. The love you feel for your pet, your friend, your siblings, your partner, or your child. They are all different and special in their own way. In earlier blogs we’ve already discussed self-care, self-love and self-compassion, and you might know that to love anything and anyone truly, you must first learn to love yourself.
If you lack self-esteem, confidence or self-acceptance it’s likely that this is reflected in feelings such as frustration, jealousy, envy or even hatred towards others. You can’t like everyone and not everybody will like you, but practising self-acceptance and especially loving kindness, will help you reduce such strong feelings, as well as criticism and destructive thoughts.
What is loving kindness?
Loving kindness is most commonly known as a type of meditation. It’s also called ‘Metta’ meditation. The ultimate form of generous and selfless love. It combines several qualities of love: friendliness, mutual understanding and peace, compassion, goodwill and an active interest in others. It’s originally a self-healing practice that traditional Buddhists consider a pathway for creating happiness, appreciation, satisfaction, and ultimate acceptance (Bodhi, 2005; Shen-Yen 2001).
With loving-kindness meditation comes a profound spiritual transformation and the urge to reflect on our positive emotions (Kabat-Zinn, 1990).
This week we’re looking at the relationships we have with our friends and family, and practising loving kindness and Ahimsa. Before we say anything else:
- Describe the relationship you have with your best friend.
- Why do you love this person?
- What are their best characteristics?
- Why do you consider these their ‘best’ characteristics?
Practising loving kindness and ahimsa
Meditation is a great way to practise loving kindness. It allows you to create awareness, understand your obstacles better and make space for wiser decisions. Meditation is a limb of yoga. Yoga is a lifestyle and something you also practise off the mat in your daily life.
The Yama ‘Ahimsa’ is very closely linked to loving kindness. Ahimsa means non-harming and non-violence in thought, word and intentional behaviour and acts. Now, when your brain sees all these negative words; ‘no, non, never’, it doesn’t know what to do instead. So, let’s have a look at some examples and let’s be super honest (practise truthfulness: Satya.
Do you easily judge…
- someone for the way they look?
- what they have(n’t) achieved?
- what they eat?
Do you (negatively) speak about others…
- when they are not there?
- to laugh at them (with another friend)?
- in a passive aggressive way?
Do you consciously…
- speak nastily to others?
- exclude others?
- Avoid telling the truth because it seems easier?
Especially around the people we feel most comfortable with, we forget our social ethics. I’m guilty of this too and honestly also think it’s healthy to express your negative feelings and experiences from time to time. But way too often, we express ourselves without thinking and use words that are very harmful and damaging.
When I studied Ahimsa I learned to read between the lines and now see that it’s not just about the absence of violence, but rather it teaches us kindness, friendliness, thoughtfulness and taking others, as well as our duties and responsibilities into consideration.
“World peace, please!”
I’m not telling you to start vegan propaganda, spread-the-love cult, or tell you to go on strike for climate change, but I do believe in the meaning behind these practices. They simply beg for your attention; treat yourself, others and all living things the way you’d like to be treated.
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