Practice 1: Loving kindness and compassion~ self
By: Lauren Lockey
How do we stay balanced, focused, compassionate, open, and kind during such dark times? It feels as though the world is shattering all around us and everything has become more chaotic and broken. The work begins with the self.
When I woke Friday to news that the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed inspection reports from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities, I felt my heart sink. How much worse can it get? We are moving backwards! Anxiety took over and I thought I would lose my way. I shut off my phone and computer and went south for three days.
At the turn of the new year I made a commitment to keep striving to be a better human which included unconditional love and laughter, keeping my family and tribe close, worrying less, breathing more, letting go of all I can’t control, judging less, listening more, etc.. We must cherish, love, and be kind to ourselves before we can give that to anyone else right?! When I am balanced and at peace within myself, then I can move forward with more wisdom and love for all those around me. No matter where I am I can cultivate loving kindness and be happy for others. Not to say this doesn’t have it’s challenges. I am an extremely passionate person and when I get into conversations about issues I care about I can become tunnel visioned. Those are the times I have to stop and listen, breathe and look for something I can learn from the other person. This does not mean we don’t stand up and fight for what we believe in. However, truly making an effort to understand the other side will only make us better because we then gather information and become more effective. It may sound strange but we are all child like deep down and when I think of it that way there is an innocence I can speak to. And there are times when silence and leading by example is the best option for change. Remember Rosa Parks sitting silently in the front of the bus?
This blog is one of four practices in a blog series I will cover over the next few months. I will also thread different yoga postures throughout each practice. This first practice, which is the longest and most in depth of them all, touches on ways to be kind and compassionate to ourselves. This is the reason I began teaching yoga roughly 18 years ago. My dream was to teach adults and children throughout the world to raise awareness about animal rights. I thought if we can learn to be kind and powerful within ourselves, then we can only be kind and compassionate to others..I hope you find these tips/postures helpful for they help me on my own journey in becoming an artist of life. Feel free to add your own! Remember this is a practice so there is plenty of room to fall and get back up.
- The journey matters more than the destination: Be patient with yourself
Where are we trying to get to and what is the rush? Keep your vision but enjoy each and every moment because we are literally here for a spec of time. Take time to learn and educate yourself but let go of control or some expected outcome. All this does is create worry and anxiety which does absolutely nothing positive for us right?! In fact, worry and anxiety can often be paralyzing. Speaking from present experience here.. The universe does have a way of supplying us with exactly what we need!
On a typical day, we only breathe into the top half of our lungs. We are such busybodies running around, planning, going here and there that we forget to breathe deeply. Think of your breath as nourishment for each and every cell of the body and mind. In yoga classes, we focus on the breath first because without that, there is no connection of body and mind. When you feel stress or anxiety floating in, stop and take 5 deep breaths. Feel your lungs expand and then visualize all stress leaving the body as you exhale. It’s sometimes that simple!
- Limit screen time: includes television, cell phones, and computers.
According to CNN, Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time! Yes we have to work on these devices and I am all for reading the news and communicating but I never feel awesome after I sit in front of a screen or look at my cell phone. I typically feel empty, depressed, tired, annoyed, or angry. Not really the path to loving kindness huh?! This includes social media like face book and instagram. It can be helpful for organizations sharing news and stories but I found myself wanting to tune out so I would sit for 20 minutes and scroll through other peoples’ lives! Time can be better spent reaching out to those people, working on a project, or simply just being. Set a screen limit for yourself and your family, then follow it. I am forced to be more efficient in my work now because I want to spend less time on screens! It’s more important to “like” and be “liked” out there than it is on a screen! Pick up the phone and plan a date with a friend(s). Will you look back on your life and say “damn I wish I would have spent more time on my cell phone or computer”? My guess is no!
- Don’t talk shit about other people: or like a Buddha quote I read years ago on someone’s wall, “imagine excrement coming out of the mouth when you or someone else speaks poorly about others.”
When we speak ill of others it creates negative energy and distance. I can’t imagine anyone feels good after the conversation because ultimately our goal is to be our highest selves and this doesn’t fit the bill. It immediately causes people to project onto others they could otherwise form meaningful relationships with. When we hear these things, we tend to judge the person being talked about. Usually when we speak negative of others, we are only projecting what we may not like about ourselves. If you are around others speaking poorly of someone, change the subject. When we are balanced and confident, we have no reason to speak poorly of others because we genuinely want them to be loved and happy.
- Be aware of thoughts and judgments you tell yourself: meditation
I have become much more aware of my thoughts and judgments through my meditation practice. This can be very helpful in letting go of those thoughts and replacing them with new ones. These judgments usually come from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Meditation allows us to be our own witness so we can be more fully aware and present with all we do. Not that you have to love washing dishes or doing other daily tasks but these things become more enjoyable because you are present. Again, it comes back to the question, “where are we trying to get to”? It has been so wonderful to be back in my practice of 10 minutes a day. I prefer evening time before I go to bed. Some prefer the mornings but I urge you to try it. Start with 5 minutes and build from there. Create a welcoming space in your house where you feel relaxed and focused. Sit on a cushion or pillow with an upright spine and close your eyes. Just like yoga, your main focus is your breath. Years ago I used to visualize a horse running back and forth across an open field for my inhale and exhale.. Another visual is a door opening and closing with your inhale and exhale. With my students I offer the choice to also tell themselves in their mind( and I will even say out loud) “I breathe in, I breathe out.” Create a mantra for yourself with positive affirmations. Notice how you feel afterwards and throughout the rest of your day..Make it a habit. This quote is on post its around my house,
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of it’s troubles, it empties today of it’s strengths”. Corrie Ten Boom
- Smile, look up and laugh often!
Let yourself go, laugh by yourself or with others! Life is too short to take everything seriously. Get outside and connect with the earth because we all live here together. Hike, ride a bike, go for a walk, and look up! Feel grateful that we are able to spend time on this beautiful planet. We get to experience new places, smells, colors, and sensations. Take time to look at the moon and stars because we are just a flicker in time. Animals are teachers and healers. Make time for them and protect them. Without my family of animal friends I would be a lost soul! One thing that you absolutely can not do without smiling is DANCING! Last concert I went to was Michael Franti during Sundance and all the troubles of the world went away for a few hours..Surround yourself with all sorts of people with different back rounds and cultures. Find your tribe and keep them close! Take time out and plan fun adventures or dates and shake your booty!
- Eat healthy: nourish yourself mindfully
When stressed or anxious, we tend to make unhealthy choices, overeat or not eat enough. When you feel yourself reaching for unhealthy foods, stop and take 5 breaths. Ask yourself, “is this truly what I need right now?” “What void I am trying to fill?” What may taste good in the moment, we regret later..However, don’t judge yourself because we all make mistakes and learn from them. Indulging every so often is perfectly fine! The greatest practice is being mindful and present while you eat. Actually sit down at the table with your family and eat a healthy whole food vegan meal. Make an effort to chew your food and enjoy the taste of something salty or sweet. Be mindful of when you feel full and honor that. Wait 10 minutes and if still hungry, eat more. Greens, grains, beans, seeds, and colorful veggies are filled with antioxidants and healing qualities..Fill your kitchen with those foods and stay hydrated!
- Follow your passion: and learn something new
What do you feel deeply about? What makes your heart feel that strong or barely controllable emotion? Follow it because it matters. Passion makes one feel alive and without it life can seem redundant. Passion gives us a reason to write our own story. If you haven’t found it or even if you have, make an effort to learn something new! Challenge yourself and change up your routine. I learned to play the drums when I was a teenager and then stopped unfortunately( I could probably be the drummer for some famous rock band right now. Ha! 🙂 )but I recently made the effort to pick it up again and it challenges a whole different part of my brain and I love it! Just an example but following your passion and learning new things makes life more rich for sure!
- Gratitude: loving kindness
List 3 things you are grateful for every day. This can be either out loud to your loved ones or to yourself. Give yourself thanks and gratitude for all you are and do. The first part of a loving kindness visualization I do with my students goes like this:
~while in Sivasana, take a deep breath in and pause with full lungs for 3 seconds, then exhale through the mouth. Do that 3 times.
~ visualize yourself in your own sanctuary of peace whether its the beach, the forest, etc..
~ See yourself in your mind’s eye looking into your own eyes. Tell yourself, “may you be happy, healthy, and at peace”.
I hope you found these tips helpful. Please feel free to comment on this page or reach out to me with any questions or practices of your own in becoming an artist of life!
I look forward to practice 2: Loving Kindness and Compassion: family, tribe, those close to us