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Apart from writing and teaching yoga, I rent out my flat to Dublin visitors. The last time I checked, I’ve had over 50 different guests stay at the flat. I’ve met people who I would now consider friends, as well as people who were a challenge for me to host.

I learned about the practice of metta bhavana just before a particularly challenging guest came to stay. Even before she arrived, I was bombarded with nearly 20 emails with various nit-picky questions, concerns and the like. I was overwhelmed after the 7th email.

Her arrival time was at 6 am on a Saturday morning. I had agreed to an early check-in and couldn’t alter the plans, even though I was already feeling stressed by the situation.

When she arrived, she was very tired. Her mood was, to use a nice term, flat. It had been a long flight and she’d never travelled on her own before. I set her up in the apartment and went back to bed. I woke up later that morning with a horrifyingly intense urge to urinate. But she was using the only bathroom in the house. So I waited. 15 minutes passed. 30 minutes. And only then did I hear the shower turn on. Another 10 minutes. I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I hobbled, cross-legged out of bed, threw on the closest clothes I could find, pulled up my hair, and bolted out the door to a café down the street. After awkwardly ordering a coffee and squeaking through fear of a ruptured bladder, “COULD I PLEASE USE YOUR BATHROOM?” I found myself dizzy from relief as I washed my hands at the sink. I stopped a moment, crossed my arms and thought, how am I going to get through the next few days?

Then I remembered Metta Bhavana.

There is a saying that is ascribed to Buddha that goes, “Being angry at someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” It doesn’t help you or the situation to project negative energy towards someone. But it’s hard to change the way you feel.

Step three of metta bhavana is about cultivating love and kindness for a person you are currently upset with, or someone with whom you have long-term unresolved conflict. It’s a difficult step because there is so much rubbish in the way. But it can be done and it can alter the dynamic of the relationship.

While standing at the café bathroom sink, I used step 3 of metta bhavana for my new guest. I said in my mind:


May you be well.

May you be happy.

May you be peaceful.

May you be filled with love and kindness.


Was it hard? Absolutely. But I felt calmer. And it helped.

I went back to the flat and she was still in the shower. She came out after 15 minutes and I went for my turn. While in the shower, I kept repeating the phrases, May you be well. May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be filled with love and kindness.

It felt like washing dirty thoughts. After I got ready to head out for the day, I met her in the hallway. She still had a sour demeanor about her. However, I was feeling so refreshed after the practice of metta bhavana that I gave her a hug and genuinely wished her a beautiful first day in Dublin. I didn’t know why at the time, but I left the flat feeling wonderful even with the strange energy around.

The days that followed, I kept doing metta bhavana for this person. She wasn’t very communicative, but I decided to kill it with kindness and greet her with a big smile whenever we would pass in the hall.

We organized to meet at the end of her trip for check-out. She was much happier as I walked into her room to collect the key. She sat on the side of the bed, politely and with a sort of serenity about her.

She said, almost reluctantly, “I’ve really enjoyed staying here. I know I’m not an easy person to deal with.”

I uncomfortably replied, “I’m really glad you enjoyed the flat. I hope it was warm and nurturing for you.”

“Nurturing,” she said quietly. “Yes, nurturing is the word. You see, my husband and I just split up and coming to Ireland is sort of my healing trip.”

Ahhh. Finally it made sense. I realized that if I had reacted on my initial feelings, it may have hurt her. But because I chose to think good thoughts, which led to positive actions, I had a small part in her healing.

My heart nearly exploded. I gave her a big hug and she went on her way.

I’ll admit, cultivating love and kindness for someone who gets under your skin is hard. But it can help to mend old wounds as well as prevent dirty energy from building up. Especially if it is someone you’ve had long-term problems with. It probably won’t change them, but it can alter the way they act toward you. It’s like choosing the path of least resistance. You have the choice to let another person’s negativity affect you. And you have the choice to return it with kindness.

A situation like I just described is a good place to start. Test how your positive thoughts can affect those around you. Find the space where you can think before you react and choose how to approach the conflict in a way that transforms the bad to good.


Author Matt

I started YogaHub out of a room at the back of someone else's house back in 2012 with nothing more than an idea. I'd been teaching Yoga since 2008 and had no intention of opening a Yoga Studio. I think, like everything I've done, I just decided one day I was going to give it a try. And try I did and if you're reading this I guess I'm still trying.

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