‘Tis the Season for Lovingkindness… ‘Twill Be the Year for It, Too

Yesterday, I moved from Washington DC to Barcelona. Nearly six months later, I have a TEFL certificate, am one-third of the way through the Masters in Translation Studies program, and plan to continue for a doctorate. I’ve taught the fifth Yoga for Cancer Survivors Teacher Training earlier this month. I went from ensuring my cat was cool and hydrated upon arriving in Barcelona, to both of us huddling under blankets on the sofa while I translate assignments.

Today is Christmas Eve and Erev Hanukkah. This is my first Christmas in Catalonia in many years; last time, my Catalan siblings and I were studying for our first undergraduate degree. Tomorrow, I will bring presents to five nephews, the oldest of whom will be 15 in ten days. Time flies when you’re following your dreams.

This has been quite the year for all of us. Many of you will concur that November has been particularly challenging. Beyond our personal achievements and losses: we experienced a major upheaval on Election Day that can’t possibly highlight enough how important it is to take care ourselves so that we can continue to nurture our world with every form of lovingkindness.

The yoga, or dharma, or if you prefer the word “notion,” of lovingkindness (metta), starts with pratipaksha bhavana, the practice of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. This doesn’t mean we must go all Pollyanna. Is it really truthful (satya, one of the “ten commandments,” if you will, of yoga) to fake it ‘til you make it? Wouldn’t transforming the negatives – such as the threats to healthcare access, and reminding prejudiced people that inside we’re all the same and in this together – into realistically constructive and productive acts of compassion be more feasible with long lasting results?

Whether bedridden or busy rushing from one commitment to the next appointment, one can practice lovingkindness.

My home practice with my teacher (depicted) continues. And yours?

In addition to adhering to your physical self-care routine, identify every negative thought, and let it go. Replace it with a neutral or encouraging thought. Remember that every person that annoys you may be suffering from a story of which you may not yet know. Compassionate action can manifest in the form of a silent nonresponse to an aggressive remark, eye contact with a smile to someone who needs acknowledgement, paying for the coffee of the person standing on line behind you, or leaving a note on the windshield of a car whose driver you noticed was in dire need of cheer. Share this link to nine free videos of Warrior Women: Yoga for Women During & After Treatment for Cancer, available in English & Spanish, with those who would benefit. As you watch the world around you, ideas for such actions will reveal themselves.

Such generous acts are variations of maitri meditation in action. Kindness to yourself, to your loved ones, to the maternal figures in your life, to the neutral people in the shops and on the street, to your enemies, and to all beings around you, is a form of practicing yoga. Even by holding that person in your thought and silently wishing, “may you be safe, healthy, happy, and at ease,” you are fostering lovingkindness within yourself and for all beings.

I wish you a peaceful holiday season. May all beings be happy and free.