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In Sutra 1:33 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we’re prescribed practical tips to help us find ways to still the fluctuations of our minds, which is one huge part of what yoga is all about.
This yoga sutra teaches us to practice friendliness with those who are happy, compassion with those who are suffering, sympathetic joy with those who appear to be virtuous, and equanimity with those who appear to be less than virtuous.
We can all come to practice these virtues because they’re natural virtues that live within us. However, we tend to block them all the time, and in order to get them back, we need to meditate with them and bring them experimentally into our everyday lives.
So, let’s begin.
Find yourself a comfortable seat and take a deep and deliberate inhalation and exhalation. As you do this, relax your belly, and open both your heart and mind. Now close your eyes and tune into the virtue of “friendliness.”
What does it feel like to be friendly? Do you have a physiological relationship with friendliness?
Think of someone or some being that brings you joy. Bring them into your mind’s eye and imagine being friendly with this person or being. Now take a big inhale and exhale.
Again, what does friendliness really feel like? Feel it deep within your bones.
Next, we get attuned to Karuna, or compassion. Keep the eyes, closed, the belly soft, and take a nice, big inhale and exhale. Again, soften the belly and open the heart and mind.
What does compassion, or Karuna really, truly feel like? Can you feel what compassion feels like within your body?
Bring into your mind’s eye a person who you believe is suffering in some way. Think about ways in which you can feel compassionate towards this person. What does it feel like to send compassion their way? Take a moment to notice what that feels like throughout your body.
We then move on to meditate on a term called mudita, which translates to goodwill, or sympathetic joy. This is the spontaneous, very real happiness that you feel for another person. Sometimes this is hard because so many of us experience a scarcity mentality. This happens when we believe one person’s benefit is our loss.
For example, it’s really easy to feel joyful for your nephew who has just finished his first year in elementary school. But now try feeling that same sense of happiness for a colleague who just got the raise you wanted.
This is a problem of the ego, which believes it must to go after its own success. But in another yoga text, there’s a teaching that says the goal that’s coming to you is already coming, so you might as well do what you love.
In other words, nobody’s taking away what’s yours. Do your dharma, not someone else’s. So you can truly feel goodwill for someone else’s success because it doesn’t belong to you anyway. Yours is coming around in another form.
Last, we meditate on Upeksha(nam.) This translates to equanimity. It’s a certain quality of spaciousness like the kind you feel when you know everything is good, just as it is.
So take a moment here to close your eyes and breathe deeply for a moment. Visualize a beautiful ocean or vast desert. Think of something in nature that is truly awe-inspiring. It could be the huge night sky with its never ending array of twinkling stars.
Feel how you feel in this place. Notice how every part of your body feels. Know this feeling of spaciousness. This is upeksha(nam).
Take another few breaths and slowly come back. Open your eyes. As you have probably realized, these are four states of being that are within you. You might resist them at times, but they are there.
When we really tap into these qualities and practice them in our daily lives, we can feel great peace – within our minds and within our hearts.
This is the teaching of Yoga Sutra 1:33. Come back to this meditation whenever you need to drop into your Higher Self.
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