I can’t think of a more appropriate occasion than Valentine’s Day for a lesson on purushartha and the four desires of the soul. Aside from the obvious connection of desires (including kama or pleasure), this workshop is really an exercise in love, specifically self-love (cue Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All).
Rod Stryker creator of ParaYoga wrote an illuminating book called The Four Desires outlining a detailed process for excavating our deepest wants so we can understand and pursue our unique purpose. His rallying cry to modern day yogis is to move beyond asana to where the physical practice prepares us to go. He provides meditative techniques and lessons from the Vedic scriptures to explore the self and answer questions about what it is that we aspire to become.
The goal is to come to know and understand our soul’s desires and to build a life based on those. Imagine the happiness and satisfaction gained when we are able to fully live in accordance with our true nature. It all starts by inquiring within through meditation and reflection practices approached with love and compassion.
This Saturday’s workshop gives an introduction to the four different types of desires and an opportunity to take the first step in exploring what lies within through meditation. Consider this workshop a “blind date” with your soul. As such it may feel a little awkward at times, a bit exhilarating and challenging, and undoubtedly worthwhile. Who knows? You may just find you’re soon going steady with your lovely self and wanting to keep the relationship growing;)
Excerpt from the book The Four Desires.
I close every class I teach with these words from a loving kindness meditation:
May all beings everywhere be healthy
May all beings everywhere be happy
May all beings everywhere be safe
May all beings everywhere find peace.
Meditating on loving kindness (also known as mettā meditation) is a practice intended to develop benevolence. Through this process, the practitioner can experience joy in celebrating the happiness of others. It’s a somewhat simple, yet potent practice. I find reciting just the four lines above – a mere portion of a complete mettā practice – is a powerful reinforcement of my intentions and aspirations for compassionate living.
A traditional mettā practice begins with an offering of loving kindness directed toward oneself. The offering is then repeated several times, each time directing the energy to a specific person or group such as a ‘neutral’ individual, a loved one, an enemy, and then to all beings throughout the universe. In the meditation, the practitioner breathes in suffering and exhales happiness.
Research on the benefits of mettā meditation are mounting and show how mind training in loving kindness impacts the practitioner’s own happiness. The evidence shows that it:
- Improves Well Being
- Promotes Healing
- Builds Emotional Intelligence in the Brain
- Combats the Negative Impact of Stress
- Strengthens Social Connections
- Increases Self-love
Emma Sappalla, Associate Director Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research & Education, provides a stunning checklist of metta meditation benefits along with links to the corresponding research in her post 18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation Today.
Mettā meditation is a highly accessible practice. I’ve even used this with my kids as a bedtime ritual to close out the day. As with any practice, the key is to – well – practice.
This 30-minute guided meditation from Sharon Salzberg author of Loving Kindess: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness provides a lovely introduction.