Are you jealous of other people’s happiness and feel guilty about it?
Is the voice in your head harsh and abusive at times?
Do you want to know and like yourself?
Maitri or unconditional friendliness is a way to START showing not only others more kindness, but more importantly….ourselves.
Maitri in Yoga is one of the Parikarmas, or 4 ways to to purify the mind. Parikarmas are a way to protect yourself from YOURSELF.
All of our minds, left to themselves have the tendency to run rampant. They are like wild animals. Wild monkeys to be specific as the Buddhists say. This is especially true as we all have to interact with others.
Social interactions tend to poke at our soft spots or areas of sensitivity. The 4 parikarmas provide a protective shield and subsequent strategy to enable us to not get sucked into the dramatics of our mind.
Let’s explore Maitri in terms of unconditional friendliness to others (externally) as well as towards ourselves (internally):
Maitri: Unconditional friendliness (love,warmth, affection, approachability, openness, kindness, sympathy, helpful, brotherhood, goodwill).
The cultivation of friendliness towards others is aimed primarily towards those who are happy. You might find this to be an odd direction to take. But you’ve probably experienced jealousy and/or shame when looking at the accomplishments of someone further along the path than yourself.
You wish that you were able to enjoy whatever it is that they had i.e material pleasures, peace, fulfilled family life, etc.
Developing friendliness towards happy people takes the edge off that green eyed monster.
And by friendliness I don’t mean becoming their friend to gain something from them. Fake and insince interactions are not what we’re looking for here. Rather, there’s a brotherhood spoken of in this definition. Goodwill. Kindness and warmth.
The jealousy or grasping is taken out of the equation to be replaced by pure human connection.
We are all just people. And frankly they may look like they have it all, but I guarantee they struggle with something you would never wish on anyone. We are all just walking the path. The same path. Regardless of your religion or beliefs, it really IS the same path.
So just stick to your lane. Ok. You are progressing just fine. Others may seem like they are “further along” than you, and they might in some aspects but not in others.
But either way, you will get there soon enough.
Pema Chodron’s book “How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind” refers to Maitri as unconditional friendliness towards self FIRST and foremost. This is not selfish. This is simply the necessary first step if you ever hope to show friendliness to others.
However I must admit that this is VERY difficult. In order to show friendliness to self, you must think that you’re WORTHY of a friendship.
Are you worthy of love, warmth, kindness, and sympathy? Everyone is my dear. Everyone. ESPECIALLY you. But when you’re wrapped up in self judgement and perfectionism, there is no room for unconditional friendliness.
What would you tell a friend who failed a job interview? You would most likely say “It’s ok, everyone gets nervous” “You will do better next time” “Don’t beat yourself up, I’m sure you did better than you think.” All nice and TRUE statements.
What would you tell YOURSELF if you bombed an interview? “What a fucking loser” “I’m never going to get where I want to be in life” “I sounded like a bumbling idiot.”
Shame. Oh the shame. It seeps into your pores. And splashes acid on your soul. It’s the ultimate spirit killer.
And for WHAT? Because you weren’t the Toast Masters pick for public speaking. It’s fine!
You will get to where you need to be! You will get better. And luckily YOU get to pick what you tell yourself. It’s literally your choice. The negative statements will likely surface first. That’s fine. No need to shame yourself about that too!
Before you go running down the rabbit hole of shame….STOP… and ask yourself if the statement you just told yourself is 100% true. It won’t be. Let me reiterate, it won’t! You’re NOT a fucking loser.
You’re amazing for putting yourself out there and continuing to try. Remember that. THAT can be your new truth. Hang your hat on that.
And why not? Even if all of you doesn’t believe you’re a fucking WINNER right away, there’s a PART of you that does. It might be really tiny. I’m talking like atom size. But IT IS THERE! Let’s lure it out of its hiding place deep within your heart.
Speak nicely to that part of you like it’s an abused dog. Because that’s exactly what it is.
And what happens when you cuddle and speak gently to an abused dog? They THRIVE. They become the happiest little thing in this world.
They recover who they were BEFORE the abuse and simply shine. You’ve seen the videos, it brings the greatest warmth to your heart. You literally just want to burst with joy after seeing the transformation.
That is what we’re doing with OURSELVES. Your abused heart is recoverable. It will shine and thrive one day. Truly it will. By your own hands this will happen.
So start saying words of truth. Use gentle words such as:“Come back my love” “You’re doing just fine” “In fact you’re better than “fine,” you are absolutely glorious.”
And just wait, because your transformation is also forthcoming.