This is the hardest time of year for me, even in "sunny Southern California" the days are shorter and a little colder. I find myself a little more anxious, worried, annoyed with day to day life. For some reason around now, everything mundane thing feels a little more difficult. I spend a week or two drowning in the frustration at myself about feeling frustrated-- and then inevitably one day I remember this is a annual "thing". I fantasize I could write myself a letter to send promptly that will arrive 365 days from now, to remind myself mid-January next year that I always feel somewhere between the blues and mean reds. And that the cure is simple: more meditation, more yoga, more sleep, less computer time and that I can be nicer to myself.
Maitri in Sanskrit or Metta in Pali translates as many things: loving-kindness, compassion, friendliness, benevolence, good will, friendship, the list goes on. Many of the translations make me think of doing things for others, and when I am in my current state of being I don't like to think about doing nice things for others, or even thinking nice things for others (well, unless someone does something nice for me, then it is easy). My meditation teachers have revealed that Metta does not dictate that we first or only give this to others, but first we meditate/contemplate/ruminate on Metta towards your own self, your own being, your very life in this moment, right here right now. And from there the spiral of positivity can lead to outward as it will. Patanjali (the guy who wrote down the Yoga Sutras) even suggests that in place of asana, pranayama or meditation the practice of Maitri can be a powerful one on the road to a peaceful mind.
If visualization or meditation on the direct idea of Metta/Maitri doesn't work for me in the beginning I like to recite this chant. It helps kick-start things if you will: lokah samasta sukinoh bhavantu-- "May all beings have happiness and causes of happiness" (Wah! has a beautiful recording, if you need a little outside help kick-starting the process). And when I am really feeling cranky, irritable and wronged, I simplify it even more into this mantra-- I want for you what I want for myself. Then I go back to my meditation seat, focus on my breath for a while and focus on sending some loving-kindness to myself.
So my question of the month is: how can you be a little nicer to yourself right here, right now? (If multiple answers pop up in your imagination, then you should give yourself permission to try them all with delight).