“The emergence of the human was a transformation moment for the Earth as well as for the human. As with every species, there was a need for humans to establish their niche, a sustainable position in the larger community of life, a way of obtaining food, shelter and clothing. There was need for security, the need for family and community context. This need for community was quite special in the case of humans since humans articulate a capacity for thought and speech, aesthetic appreciation, emotional sensitivities, and moral judgment, none of which can function without a community context.” ~ The Great Work, p. 57, Thomas Berry
However you define community, it seems clear that developing a positive sense of community is key ingredient to happy, peaceful human society — and thus, to a healthy, sustainable planet. Although yoga practice is traditionally a solitary practice, it offers great potential for development off the mat. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the yamas (restraints) hint at the importance of how we relate to others. Another way of thinking of ahimsa (non-harming), might be lovingkindness or compassion.
Humans have devised a variety of practices designed to help the individual encourage positive thoughts about others. For example, in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, the goal of metta meditation practice is to cultivate compassion and loving-kindness (“metta”) toward self and the world. It begins with opening the heart toward the self, then toward a beloved, and eventually working toward those we don’t know and even those we actively dislike. The metta meditation includes a mantra of well-wishing:
May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.
Is there a beloved person for whom you could easily practice metta meditation? Until it becomes second nature, it might be helpful to write out the metta meditation on a slip of paper so you can peek at it if you forget. Remember the breath as you meditate, and coordinate your thoughts with the breath. Inhale as you think “May you…” and exhale as you think “…be happy” and so on.