The iconic doll, once notorious for her unattainable body proportions and unabashed materialism, is changing her ways one Buddhist practice at a time.
Barbie is a vlogger? Barbie is a Buddhist vlogger?
Gone, it would seem, are the days when the doll’s unrealistic body shape was said to negatively affect kids’ body image. Gone are the concerns over the doll’s commercialism and hyper-sexuality. Enter a new era of social influence. Barbie has taken to YouTube, garnering almost 10 million subscribers, where an animated version speaks directly to tweens about believing in themselves, covering subjects from bullying to empathy. These teachable moments are often accompanied by bits of advice, including a couple of practices you might be familiar with.
“Meditation is a big part of my morning routine,” Barbie writes in one vlog description. “Every morning when I first wake up, I meditate. Meditation really helps me to stay focused for the entire day. So take a deep breath… meditate with me.”
In another vlog entry, Barbie admits: “I had an experience recently where someone made me upset and I had a really hard time forgiving them. But I heard about this awesome thing called Loving Kindness Meditation and it really helped! I hope it helps you too if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.”
That’s right! Barbie has joined a growing population of folks re-discovering metta, also known as loving-kindness meditation. It is the practice of wishing that one finds happiness, focused on generating goodwill toward others. Lion’s Roar’s archive is brimming with variations on the practice: From Jack Kornfield’s and JoAnna Hardy’s practical instructions to Mushim Patricia Ikeda’s “How to Practice Metta for a Troubled Time”, amongst many others.
“Imagine your heart filling with love,” Barbie says into her webcam as she begins teaching the meditation. “And then you say, ‘May I be happy.’ And to fill your heart with love, well, that’s like giving yourself a superpower. Next, visualize a friend or a family member, someone’s who’s helped you. And send that love to them. Say silently to yourself, ‘May you be happy’ as you visualize them…”
Barbie moves through sending loving-kindness to a neutral person before arriving at the figure who made her angry earlier. “And here’s the hard one,” she acknowledges. “Imagine someone you’re angry with. Visualize them and send that love to them… You may think I’m totally hokey right now, but it really works. Anger can really tie us up in knots and forgiving people gives us the power to see above it.”
It is a powerful message from an unlikely source — which perhaps makes it all the more persuasive in these divisive times.
“What this form of meditation is designed to do — and for many people does very successfully — is to purify us of hatred and ill will,” writes Mushim Patricia Ikeda of Metta. “Goodwill is the antidote to ill will. Goodwill, or loving-kindness, is the antidote to ill will, hatred, and enmity.”
At its core, metta meditation is about making a change for the better. People change – even Barbie.