Day 5: Embodying Lovingkindness

Dear <<First Name>>

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 strength. Metta is definitely not a weak or passive state. It involves a confident stance.

Often, when we lack confidence, we slump. The shoulders roll forward. 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 be kind to 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, explains 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 — their testosterone levels are boosted. 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 to a sense of competence and self-worth. And the same confident stance also reduces levels of blood cortisone, which is a stress hormone, so stress levels and anxiety are reduced.

These changes in our hormone levels take place after only two minutes, which is quite amazing. 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 I suggest that you try this as a practice. Whether you’re standing or sitting, or you’re sitting to work on a computer or sitting for meditation, try keeping your body erect, and your chest open for at least two minutes. Feel the feeling tone — hopefully a confident one — of an open, erect posture.

But also allow the body to soften. Let your musculature relax a little. Bring your awareness to the heart, breathe into that region of the body, and activate the vagus nerve so that the heart feels soft and open. And then wish yourself, and the world well.

With metta (lovingkindness),
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