Embodying lovingkindness (Day 5)
There’s a lot of confidence involved in lovingkindness, especially with lovingkindness toward oneself (self-metta), and this confidence is reflected in the body. When we’re feeling loving toward ourselves or others we’re upright, the chest is open — the heart is open — and we’re relaxed. There’s a feeling of softness, but also of stength. Metta is definitely not a weak or passive state. It involves a confident stance.
When we lack confidence, we often slump. The shoulders roll forwards. The chest collapses so that we can’t breathe well. The heart is closed. We look down, limiting our horizons both literally and figuratively. We become inward turned, and we ruminate in a way that makes us feel even worse. You can’t feel loving toward yourself or others in such a posture.
Now, research has shown that our posture is very closely related to our sense of confidence, and that this is measurable. Amy Cuddy, in a very well-known TED talk (see below), discusses research showing that when people stand in a confident posture — the classic Wonder Woman or Superman stance, with legs apart, hands on the hips, chest open, looking straight ahead — there is a boost in their testosterone levels. Testosterone, contrary to popular belief is not just a “male” hormone. It’s found in both men and women. And it’s related to confidence, and a sense of competence and self-worth.
And the same stance also reduces our levels of cortisone, which is a stress hormone.
These changes in our hormone levels take place after only two minutes! It doesn’t take long for our physiology to change in response to our posture. In just two minutes you can feel more confident and strong.
So you can try this as a practice, whether you’re standing or sitting, and whether you’re sitting to work on a computer or sitting for meditation: keep your body erect, and your chest open. Even sitting for meditation yo might want to let your elbows move away from the side of your body. Feel the confidence of this open, erect posture.
But also soften. Let your musculature relax a little. Take your awareness to your heart, breathe into the heart area, and activate the vagus nerve so that the heart feels soft and open. And then wish yourself, and the world well.
PS Feel free to join our Google+ 100 Day Community, where people are reporting-in on their practice, and giving each other support and encouragement.[See the previous 100 Days of Lovingkindness Post See the next 100 Days of Lovingkindness post]