“This supreme compassion exists in everyone. Therefore, all the great beings say, come
into the realm of your heart. Bathe in the light of your own heart. Drink the nectar of
compassion from the wellspring of your own heart. Don’t look for compassion anywhere
else, from anyone else. It is inside you. You are the owner of this great virtue.”
Compassion is often one of the most important aspects a person can possess. From helping us better understand our fellow human beings to helping us better understand ourselves, compassion adds a sense of unity to our world, making our shared journeys shorter and more joyous and teaching us that sometimes the greatest thing we can give someone is the benefit of the doubt.
A vital part of life, certain laws, religions and rules, particularly the “Golden Rule,” all have a foundation of compassion. This is because compassion, while being a virtue that strengthens the spirit, also gives people the gift of being better able to identify with and relate to one another. This, ultimately, gives us the keys to help each other.
Though a simple enough concept, compassion isn’t always that easy to pull from the recesses within oneself, where it most certainly can be found. We often get too caught up in the stresses and trials of day to day living – the traffic, the hurrying, the long lines at the supermarket- to make compassion a practiced art. However, through certain activities, we can grow to have a better understanding of what compassion truly is, what it means to one’s individual self, and how to fully embrace the gifts it imparts on our daily lives.
Students of yoga often begin to sense a heightened state of compassion because the practice of yoga guides them toward self acceptance, which fuels warm flames of kindness, care, and love towards oneself. Self acceptance is a prerequisite for cultivating compassion in one’s life. A simple concept, self-acceptance means that you have developed a willingness to see things as they are.
This attitude sets the stage for acting appropriately in life, no matter what is happening. Practicing this way of thinking helps us cultivate acceptance by taking each moment as it comes and being with it fully as it is. A person who is calm and accepting, in a relaxed state of openness, is connected to their center where a wellspring of compassion resides. The further we are pulled out and away from our center the more susceptible we are to stresses and trials of day to day living and our well of compassion seems dry. Our center is always a vital wellspring of nourishment and compassion. In a world inundated by so much external focus, we can lose touch with our vital center. Thus, the practice of yoga provides tools of daily living to go inward, and helping us remember to remember our true center.
“A human being is part of the whole called by us the Universe. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest –a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures, and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
When we get into the habit of connecting on a daily basis from the heart, all our activities glow with the infusion of conscious intent and all our interactions are done with compassion. Yoga serves as an interface that aids those who practice it on a regular basis in gaining a clearer understanding of ourselves and how we connect and relate to the environment around us – helping us to see the Bigger Picture.
The Bigger Picture isn’t separate from ourselves; instead, we are very much a unique part of the Bigger Picture. Yoga helps us to deepen our understanding and experience our life’s purpose in the Bigger Picture the Universe! When we see the Bigger Picture we start to really see, perhaps for the first time in our lives. This is because even the smallest glimpse of the Bigger Picture opens our eyes to the world, allowing us to see and understand the hardships of others. This understanding leads to compassion, benefiting both those around us and ourselves.
Through the act of mindfulness, the foundation of yoga, we are better able to experience the Bigger Picture: we’ll call this experience the “Universal Connection.” Mindfulness gives us a connecting line from our heart center to the world around us, a truth more encapsulating than we’ve grown to know. It is with this truth that we are able to change our perception of things, perceiving them with compassion instead of indifference. Mindfulness also gives us a sense of unity, a sense of harmony with the world around us. With this harmony, we develop compassion not only for ourselves, but for the union we are part of.
Additionally, yoga is a catalyst of self-exploration. While practicing the flowing poses that come with yoga, we can not help but be confronted with every aspect of our bodies, which ultimately connects us to every emotion of our inner being. From feelings of bliss, to feelings of discomfort, these forces confront us and make us more observant of ourselves and, ultimately, more in-tune with how we affect others. Yoga also provides the shovel we need to dig in and find out who we really are. This self-exploration leads to self-discovery, which teaches us to embrace both our strengths and our weaknesses – allowing us to hone our strengths and forgive our weaknesses and to accept ourselves compassionately. And, it carries over to others, allowing us to appreciate peoples’ good qualities and forgive their flaws.
Ultimately, compassion comes down to understanding ourselves and understanding the world around us. Compassion is the force that dissolves the separation and misunderstandings we have between ourselves and each other. Because yoga facilitates both forms of understanding, it’s only natural that it would also facilitate compassion. It arms us with the knowledge we need to embrace compassion as part of our daily lives – to be passionate about being compassionate.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
—The Dalai Lama
TWISTED is a medical yoga studio at the Center for Osteopathic Medicine in Boulder, Colorado. Twisted integrates osteopathic medicine, hatha yoga and mindfulness practices to teach optimal balance between physical, mental, and emotional health. It aims to educate and help people to live a healthy life from the inside out. Rehabilitation programs offer a comprehensive treatment regime for the whole being, empowering each person one breath at a time to stimulate the body’s natural healing potential.
Jennifer Jordan is senior editor of http://www.yogatwisted.com. Specializing in articles that not only teach yoga techniques, but also teach techniques on fulfillment and enrichment, she aims to educate students proudly enrolled in the school of life.