Weathering the Storm

Superstorm Sandy sure showed us her powerful pranayama and sweaty practice yesterday and today! I hope you survived the storm with electricity, cable, and living and commuting structures intact. And if you did lose any of those things, I hope that you are warm, safe, and sound.

What an opportunity to hone the home practice to the tune of the wind and rain buffeting against the windows! Did you unroll your mat for a few poses? Did you sit on a cushion or a folded blanket and meditate or do soothing pranayama?

One type of meditation is especially apt for sending loving kindness and compassion towards the less fortunate. Maitri,  or metta, meditation is a Buddhist practice in setting the intention to love oneself and others. First, take a comfortable seat. Focus on the feeling of your breath softly passing through your nostrils. Then conjure an image of your loved one. Focus on them while saying the following, either silently or out loud:

May you be safe.

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you be at ease.

Then let the image of your loved one fade out, and visualize a mirror image of yourself. Repeat the same phrases, replacing “you” with “I.” Let your mirror image quietly dissolve. Allow an image of someone you don’t know well – a neutral person – to form in your mind’s eye. This could be the bank teller, a new neighbor you rode the elevator with this morning, or the homeless person you passed on the street. Repeat the same four phrases using the pronoun “you.” Allow the image of this stranger to fade out. Now for the challenge: conjure an unbiased image of a difficult person. Repeat the same four phrases with true intention to this person. Let go of that image. Last but not least, conjure an image of someone who has been a maternal figure to you. This could be your mother, an older relative, an older friend, perhaps a teacher or a caregiver. Repeat the four phrases to the image of your maternal figure. Allow the image to melt away. Now visualize every living thing with whom we share our planet. Repeat the four phrases to all these sentient beings. Let that image dissolve.

Feel your mind drop into your heart while you maintain your focus on your breath for a few more minutes.

What happens? How do you feel after this session?  This practice cultivates the ability to care about our world and all beings that coexist with us, without judgement, attachment, or aversion. This is a way to appreciate the suffering of others and wish them well.

Wishing you safety, happiness, health, and ease.

©2012 Amy Dara Hochberg. All Rights Reserved.