Try this. It takes nothing away from you. And may actually add something substantial.
Take this moment to wish peace and goodwill on the people you love. You may think of them one by one, if they float through your consciousness in this way, or as a collective whole of your great body of love.
Next, wish peace and goodwill on your friends, your acquaintances, your colleagues. Those whom you genuinely hold in regard and respect.
Then wish peace and goodwill on those you may know by face, but not necessarily by name: The neighborhood grocer, the mailman, the familiar waitress at your favorite cafe. They experience the same struggles, disappointments, and joys.
Wish peace and goodwill on every stranger who has passed your way. The ones you may never think of again after that initial encounter. Who knows what their paths and histories hold, or what private battles they may be waging?
Wish peace and goodwill on those you have never met, those whom you have only read about in newspapers, who may live in a world so radically different from your own, who may very well operate under a different set of ethical rules and belief systems, who may seem so remote from your own everyday experiences that they are a bit of theoretical abstract in your mind. And then remind yourself that no human being is a theory.
Wish peace and goodwill on your enemies. It’s a word full of hyperbole, and yet stunning how often we actually use it in daily language. I refer to those whose enmity sits heavy on your heart, and to whom you equally hold enmity. Those you feel you cannot trust. Those who have wounded you in some way, or have intended to cause you harm.
Next, wish peace and goodwill on those to whom you have caused harm. Which first requires that you strip away ego effectively enough to admit the harm you have caused.
Wish peace and goodwill on all living creatures. The four legged ones. The ones who fly. The ones who swim. The ones who crawl or slither on the ground. They are no less a sentient being than yourself.
Wish peace and goodwill on the planet. The earth gives us life and sustenance, and only when we begin to treat her with reverence, will we begin to reap her rewards, and maybe keep her here awhile longer.
And finally wish peace and goodwill on YOU. Whatever are your injuries, your blocks and stumbles ( hate, jealousy, intolerance, pettiness, envy, greed, impatience . . .only you know what yours are ), wish THEM peace and goodwill. They are the shadow aspects of that pantheon of emotional characters that defines you, your behavioral patterns, your methods of dealing with and in the world. They live equally side by side with the more benevolent aspects of your characters ( devotion, loyalty, gratitude, humility, honesty, altruism, compassion, empathy, etc ), and have as much to offer you in the way of insights into how best to conduct your life.
These shadow aspects of your emotional characters are all born from fear, arguably the toughest, strongest, most brazen, stubborn, and charismatic emotional character of them all. Fear has historically crippled us with its grip around our ankles like an imprisoning shackle. Embrace Fear, and all of its shadow children; the ones who live and romp in your pantheon. Do not banish Fear to a corner for being bad. On the contrary, invite Fear to a dialogue, a summit talk. Ask Fear to reveal to you what exactly it feels it needs to protect.
And then . . . listen.
There is a valuable offering that comes from each and every one of the emotional characters that defines us, both the shadow and the light, and only when we are able to garner some kind of insight into our emotional characters, by being willing to listen to them, to offer them, with equanimity, the same peace and goodwill that we have just wished on all of humanity, only then will we be able to begin to repair, to loosen that grip or break that shackle from around our ankles, in order to walk free and upright, and to begin our journey toward a more skillful life.
Our love holds no sway if it stays locked inside of our hearts unused. Radiate it outwards. The love we have to give is our only true possession, and is, without a doubt, our greatest weapon in the battle against a burdened life. Cultivate that love every day by actively wishing forward peace and goodwill. Even if it begins with mere words. Even if it presently holds no foundation in belief and intention, seek out the ritual. Make it a mantra. And it will begin to plant its seed deeply within your body, mind, and spirit. It will be made manifest. You might call it building the meditation muscle. And it is a vital key to unblocking and to freeing yourself to finding your peace and your happiness.
The above is a guided meditation that appears on my yoga/mindfulness CD, Global Yoga, which is available on CD and as a download. I thought I would transcribe it into the written form for anyone interested, and who may prefer to read than listen to the thought. I have been a yoga practitioner and meditator for over twenty years, all of it, as well as other soul-tending modalities, toward a deepening of who I am and how I walk in the world, and I am always a willing and imperfect student, just trying to share a few light bulbs forward.
Photo credit: Gregory Colbert