“The simple act of kindness is by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer” Mahatma Gandhi
I was inspired to teach about Maitri as a reaction to current events and the layers of what humanity face all over the world. Maitri’s Bhavana is to cultivate, produce, develop the feeling is one of friendliness, benevolence, affection, kindness, good-will, it is this unconditional friendship, acceptance and love for oneself and others.
When we strip off our cultural conditioning, bias, beliefs, impressions, habitual tendencies, in the Yogic perspective we all are an expression of the One, Grace, Divinity, Pure Consciousness, the light of Prana that flows within us all. When we say Namaste we are saying the Divine that flows within me, I recognise that same flow of Divine Life within you. That fundamentally we are the essence of a Divine that is in the form of your unique embodiment. And each one of us has a basic goodness, a decency, that love is at our core, our true nature. That we all have a desire to have more joy, happiness and fulfilment in our lives And not to suffer. However, just as the teachings express this is unavoidable because we love and exist we are subjected to the pain of change, illness and death. The ironic dilemma is that the more we love, the deeper we feel it the more it hurts when it changes, we loose it and have to grieve it. It’s like how we enjoy the light and heat of the fire, however when we get to close it burns. We learn to keep ourselves safe by backing away from the fire, but over time we are so faraway from the flame, we can’t benefit from its heat and light. Our work in Practice is to begin to make friends with ourselves, to stop looking for validation outside and turn our attention to feeling at home and relaxed within when we feel that fire burning. Our practice is to build that fire, we call this Tapas, physical fire, energetic fire and mental fire of concentration to create a positive change. As the saying goes “I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me” This is the real work of Practice – to have a relationship with our pain, difficulty and hardship.
Yoga Sutras points out 5 Kleshas, mental emotional afflictions we all will struggle with;
- Avidya – Ignorance,
- Asmita – Egotism,
- Raga – Attachment,
- Dvesa – Avoidance,
- Abinivesha – Fear of loss, change and death
Yoga Sutra 1:31 states the 4 symptoms of suffering observed in practice manifests as
- Negative thinking
- Emotional distress
- Instability in the body
- Disturbances in the breath that mirror the mind
The solution is Yoga Sutra 1.29 says to move inwards and then Yoga Sutra 1.32 to focus on one thing at a time.
Yoga Sutra 1.33 Cultivate
- Non-judgemental loving awareness – Upekshanam,
- Friendliness – Maitri,
- Joy – Mudito happiness – Sukka
- Compassion – Karuna
Loving kindness and friendliness towards what arises in our practice, a compassion and equanimity in body, energy and mind as we observe life’s events and not being drawn into judgement or contempt towards ourselves as well as others. These four attitudes is what is said to bring peace of mind embodied as you. Maitri is that ability to live with kindness for our messiness, our shadow side, where we feel not enough or what we find difficult to accept in ourselves or in our lives.
We show up on our mediation seat, in the flow of our life, embracing the fire that feels too hot. We acknowledge what is floating around us within the river that muddies the waters. We bespoke our practice, Tapas, to calm the current by refining the breath. Give ourselves the permission to feel, sense that healing light and stabilise the mind as it creates clarity to see into the truth of this moment as well as where we are going. Focusing on what matters to us most. This is Yoga Sutra 1.34-1.39. Through practicing this way our river has an inspired direction, clear purpose in where you are going. We ultimately are all trying to find our way back home, our true home where we are joyous, awake and free – to the source of all life that flows. There is a saying that “the ocean never refuses a river.” In our practice, we open the channels to receive this boundless ocean of presence to fill our main river, Sushuman Nadi, that filters out into the many rivers and streams of Nadis within our body. That what we are is the Divine, that is at our core, that basic goodness that flows, there is a desire to be joyous and happy as well as not to suffer needlessly.
When we experience that Maitri for ourselves, we then can extend that to others. We don’t awaken to LOVE, TRUTH and sit in Enlightenment Retirement. We go out and share what we have found. May we know love, friendship and compassion beyond all boundaries within ourselves and with others. Compassion begins with the capacity to hold our own life wrapped in the arm of our loving heart. Our ability to self care through our attention of our hurt and pain, the kinder words we speak to ourselves on a daily basis and how we physically get our needs met. When we care for ourselves in a tender way compassion will naturally awaken within us, it is intrinsic to our nature. We open to unconditional willingness to reconnect to something within where we feel safe, loved, belonging and connected to a loving presence. When we can face our own shadow side with tenderness, our empathy for others who are struggling becomes more potent and we can truly sense the humanity that connects us. By bravely facing the shadow side of humanity, we become the transformers of suffering that lives in ourselves and others.
This Maitri practice reduces attachments, increases our ability to let go of the Karmic ties that bind us to old unhelpful stories that keep us stuck and by giving and helping even through a generous acts, we develop and expand our capacity for kindness and being held by the wholeness of being.