Valentine’s Day brings up a whole mess of cultural expectations, whether you have a sweetheart or not. On this one special day dedicated to love, Hallmark et al ask us to put our money where are heart is and shower our loved ones with gifts, flowers, jewelry, chocolate, and dare I say yoga?
If you have a sweetie, there are expectations to be navigated, or released, flowers to be bought (or picked). If there’s not a special someone in your life, it’s a day that highlights your singleness, your aloneness, your matelessness. I remember what felt like years of Valentine’s Days in my twenties.
It’s a bit of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, really, but the truth remains that love and affection are amazingly wonderful and settling attitudes, such that they are prescribed in many spiritual tradition as the antidote to a variety of challenges.
Let’s take a look at The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, shall we?
Following a description of the antarayas, the inner obstacles that disperse the mind and make practice difficult (Sutras I.30 & 31), and the suggestion that one can keep these obstacles at a distance through the persevering practice of a single principle (Sutra I.32), Patanjali presents in Sutra 1.33 his version of what in Buddhism are called the Brahma-Viharis, the Divine Abidings of metta (loving-kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (gladness at others’ success) and upekkha (onlooking equanimity):
“Consciousness settles as one radiates friendliness, compassion, delight, and equanimity toward all things, whether pleasant or painful, good or bad (translation Chip Hartranft).”
Read again slowly.
In other words, be kind and loving and take a big picture perspective in all things. Do this and your mind will settle. Another way to translate this Sutra is in the matching of these attitudes more specifically to situation, as in “The mind becomes quiet when it cultivates friendliness in the presence of happiness, active compassion in the presence of unhappiness, joy in the presence of virtue, and indifference toward error (trans Bouanchard).”
Read again slowly.
When I simply read these words I feel reminded into a place of loving kindness. Reading this sutra daily this month has helped me be more aware of my ability to take a pause when habits of jealousy, judgement, and drama step in. They are great guidelines to meet what we’re presented from awareness rather than habit or reaction. Join me!
Posted by: Anne Phyfe Palmer
This post was previously published in the 8 Limbs February Newsletter. To subscribe, click here.