मैत्रीकरुणामुदितोपेक्षणां सुखदुःखपुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां भावनातश्चित्तप्रसादनम्॥३३॥
maitri-karuna-mudita-upeksanam sukha-duhkha-punya-apunya-visayanam bhavanatah-citta-prasadanam
A serene and peaceful mind (citta-prasadanam) is cultivated (bhavanatah) by being friendly (maitri) towards happy people (sukha), compassionate (karuna) towards those who are suffering (duhkha), delighted (mudita) with those who are virtuous (punya) and disengaged or undisturbed (upeksa) by those who are doing harm (apunya).
PRACTICAL LIVING The previous sutra (sutra I.32) explained the importance of choosing ONE thing and committing to it for a long period of time. This sutra suggests one solution to focus on to cultivate more inner calmness, more peace, more ease in life: relationships. A wise Yogi, TKV Desikachar, once said that the way we know Yoga is working for us is if our relationships are getting better. What??!! Yes, think about it. Our relationships, especially the closest ones, are a clear mirror of our internal state. When we are feeling good, confident and optimistic our social interactions reflect that: they tend to be smoother, more positive and even more meaningful. The opposite is also true.
Since relationships are such a huge part of our daily living and also have the potential to bring so much joy, Patanjali suggests that we practice our Yoga throughout our day while we relate to others. He summarizes people’s actions into 4 different categories and tells us that we have 4 great ways to (re)act to those to cultivate more calmness, more peace, more clarity:
- maitri: for those who are happier than us – be happy for them and celebrate with them. Often we feel jealous that someone else is happier than us, poisoning ourselves and often ruining others’ success.
- karuna: for those who are suffering, or not as happy – have compassion for them, acquiring a softness and considerateness towards the other person. This requires us to leave the “me-centered” perspective we are in most of the day, worried about MY growth, MY finances, MY happiness…and approach a “you-centered” approach – being there for those who may need us, even if it’s only for 2 words, or one minute. Frequently when someone else is suffering we judge them, closing ourselves to a relationship with that person, allowing the ego to say things such as “If only he/she got a job, then…”.
- mudita: for those who do good deeds and are successful – praise them and be delighted for them. The ego also manifests as envy when we see others succeeding, reaching their goals, or even having a life we wish to have.
- upeksa: for those who do bad things – Patanjali suggests that we avoid them, get distance and focus on something else. Remain emotionally uninvolved, understanding that these people are themselves suffering and don’t see clearly. This does not mean, walk away from a violent act. It means, do what you have to do without having to give them advice or a life lesson. Often people who are doing harm are defensive and don’t want help.
It is important to remember that the entire purpose of Yoga is to cultivate more inner peace FOR ME. Therefore, through this sutra Patanjali has no intention in making us believe that we will change other people’s lives directly. These suggestions are for us to find more inner stability ourselves. The beauty, however, is that the happier and calmer I am, the more those who surround me feel that.
Patanjali is suggesting that we replace tendencies such as jealousy, hatred and anger with those of friendliness, joy, compasssion and detachment. Positive psychology says that this might be a hard replacement to make for some people. It therefore suggests that we begin by using tools such as loving kindness meditation, a technique done alone, which helps us open our hearts and change our attitudes towards others as a result (read the next section for detailed instructions on this meditation).
Since this is a difficult technique for some people (i.e. having an attitude of compassion for a person that has hurt you or someone you love), he suggests 6 other techniques for us to choose from in the following sutras. As we explore the next few sutras, choose ONE that resonates with you, that see yourself committing to for a long period of time and with enthusiasm.
IN THE YOGA WORLD This sutra presents the simple concept that there are four types of locks out there: happy, unhappy, virtuous, and non-virtuous. Coincidentally, we have 4 keys to work with: friendliness, compassion, enthusiasm and detachment. By carrying these 4 keys at all times with us, we ensure that we can always open a door whenever we find a lock, moving from a state of vikshipta (restlessness and anxiety) to a state of prasadanam (peaceful bliss).
Loving-kindness meditation (mentioned above) is an ancient practice that has been proven to enhance people’s happiness and well-being levels. A beautiful ritual that I have committed to on a daily basis follows the basic guidelines below:
– Find a quiet place where you will be undisturbed for 10 minutes (set an alarm if this will help you keep your mind off the time).
– Sit comfortably (on a chair or on the floor) with a straight spine.
– Close the eyes and begin to slow down the breath, in and out through the nose.
– Notice the movement on the chest and abdomen with each inhale and exhale.
– Then choose one person you love, and with each breath, say mentally to yourself the following phrases (one breath per phrase):
May he/she feel safe
May he/she feel happy
May he/she feel healthy
May he/she live with ease
– Repeat this, sending your love to this person with each breath.
– Next, expand your visualization to other loved ones, your family or other friends, later including people that are not very close with, like the person you bought your coffee from this morning.
– End by sending this love to everyone, people you both know and don’t know.
‘bhavanatah’ implies that this requires repetition, it’s a practice that is cultivated through time. This idea of practice is repeated throughout the sutras, starting with sutra I.1 and sutra I.12, which both talk about commitment and the understanding that in order to change, action is required. Can you include a 10-minute loving-kindness meditation practice into your day?
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON Budu is like a brother to me. We have known each other since kindergarden and have been close friends since then. He is a positive, smiley, optimistic and fun-loving person! He is one of those friends you want around because of his lightness, his ability to bring comfort and just a laid-backness to any situation. Recently we had some beautiful conversations about people and the nature of change. His perspective was so open, so clear, so well-rounded. His ability to understand that people change, that people have different perspectives and opinions really opened my eyes. His words showed me the four behaviors in action: love, compassion, enthusiasm and detachment. Budu, thank you for the many years of beautiful friendship, of shared history, of laughter, of wonderfulness! Te adoro MUITO Buduzito!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will look at how the breath can change our state of mind and quality of life!