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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
Karen is a yogini, writer, student, teacher and meditator. She founded Garden Street School of Yoga in 2000. Karen lives with her husband Chris. They have two amazing sons, Eli and Leo (both of them young men).

Jan 1, 2013

Friendliness - Maitri

Happy 2013……

Today and for a while longer there will be a wave of energy in our culture and in our conditioning to make BIG changes.   

The problem is this: we are in deep winter, at least where I live.  (Last night it was 13 degrees and there is a quiet, deep cover of snow over everything). Winter does not energetically support growth and change - spring energy is better for that. But winter does support a nourishment of root and core. It’s a good season to befriend yourself, to focus on becoming more reliable to your self. 

(In the Yoga Sutras one of the noble virtues - brahmaviharas - is friendliness (maitri). It's usually more automatic to think of friendliness in relationship to another and not in relationship to oneself).

Experience and history tell the truth, which for most of us is:  When we make  big resolutions, we generally fail.  Every time we fail it impacts our body-mind as an unfriendly betrayal. Every little betrayal erodes our trust in our self.  Each time I tell myself that I am going to do something – and then don’t – I erode my trust in and friendship with myself. And I deplete Sankalpah Shakti – or Will of Attention.  

This is just common sense and ordinary experience applied to my friendship with myself. For example, if I tell a friend that I will meet her at 3 pm and I am late or I don’t show – that friend will lose trust in me.  Or maybe I show up unprepared and not really present.  If I do this frequently I may not have a friend anymore. And it’s no different in my friendship with myself. Why would it be?

So – as I see it – the best thing I can do in the deep of winter when kidney jing and adrenal energy need nurturance (Chinese medicine), when Agni and Ojas need to be protected and held safe at the root (Ayurveda) is to befriend myself. And I can do that just like I would do if I were to rebuild trust with a child. I would be very careful about what I promised to myself. If I said I would do it – then I would keep my word to my friend – my self – and slowly but surely rebuild her trust.

I do think we can tap into and utilize some of the “resolution energy” in the culture at large and in our conditioned selves. And “Yes!” to having a vision and a bright aspiration, And dreams. Just don’t build your deep winter friendship on them.

Only make promises to a child or a friend or yourself, that you are SURE your can keep. Make everyday, reliable promises. And keep them.

So for me, today, it’s like this:  I have many things I would like to do and will do and I have commitments to friends and students for which  I will show up, fully present and prepared.  As for my friendship with myself, the only things I have promised – is meditation, asana and a good breakfast. I knew I could do those things (partly because they happen in the morning before life gets more complicated).

This building of trust and will is like laying down bone… It happens day-by-day – bit-by-bit. You don’t take a massive dose of calcium and eat a bucket of dark leafy greens on January 1 and expect to build a strong skeleton that you can trust and rely upon. It’s a more diligent and daily process than that.

It starts in the good home of body and heart.  If I can be a good and reliable friend to myself I have a better chance of being reliable to my friends, to my students, my family, my work and to all my relations.

Ultimately I want to cultivate this kind of reliability because I want to be more reliable to the Light. Truly – that is a great motivator.

So my winter intention is to make careful daily and small commitments to myself and keep my promise.

Love After Love
The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

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