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On Compassion

"The root of compassion is compassion for one's self."- Pema Chodron

On Sunday mornings, I have been doing a guided Kundalini Yoga practice. Kassandra at Namaste Your Life facilitates my practice and is also a dear friend. That point in itself deserves a bit of commentary. When striving for personal growth, be it mentally, spiritually, or physically, it is key for success that you surround yourself with people who love you and have your progress at the forefront of your experience. Anything less will hinder your journey or halt it altogether. My experience of Kundalini is that I get to practice two aspects of The Four Seeds of Self-Care in one "sitting".(You get my drift) Any chance to consolidate my self-care practice while juggling a busy schedule is a plus. Since the practice typically consists of holding poses three minutes or longer, I am able to get in some mini meditations while moving my body.

It never fails that during my poses, as I'm breathing deeply and focusing on the point between my eyebrows(which is meditation, by the way) I have deeper insights into things we all struggle with. It may come in the form of a solution to a problem I am having or clarity on how I can improve or mend a relationship. Sometimes I spend the whole three minutes in a pose thinking of nothing but how much longer I have until the three minutes are over so I can release myself from this tedious situation. In all honesty, more time is spent in that state of mind- trying to get out of my uncomfortable situation, trying to muscle my way through instead of "feeling my feelings", trying to find out what comes next, that I often miss the gift that the present situation has to offer in the way of my personal growth. But every now and then...every now and then I fall into a state of acceptance, of willingness to stay present and breathe through the pose, of commitment to see it through to the end without judging, and that's when the magic happens. That is where the true growth lies.

"Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It"s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity."- Pema Chodron

Kassandra positioned me sitting on my knees with my arms straight in the air, hands clasped, thumbs together, pointer fingers directed straight to the sky. This litany of instructions for proper body posture was nothing new. It was like this with all the poses- frankly so much to keep up with, even I, the perfectionist, had given up doing it right all of the time. With my "root lock" engaged and my chin tucked and my shoulders rolled back and down, I began my three minutes of long, deep breathing, each extended inhale and exhale helping to bring my "third eye" gaze into focus. As she gently whispered, "You're almost there", my shoulders were burning, my core was quivering, and I wondered why I would regularly choose to go through this torture. When I was finally cleared to release the pose, my relaxed posture gave way to a surprisingly vulnerable state of uncontrollable sobs. I laid in child's pose, unable to console myself, nor having the desire to. As I let myself cry, I felt Kassandra's hand on my back. That was the moment, I believe, a profound truth was revealed.

What would I do with this gesture of compassion placed on the small of my back? Was it an invasion of my personal space? I don't want someone feeling sorry for me. What if I don't allow it? What if I straighten up, wipe my eyes, stifle the weeping, and assure her that I'm "ok"? What if I don't allow this compassion toward me? Why wouldn't I? Does it make me weak to accept compassion? Do I think others weak who accept compassion? Of course not. They are just allowing themselves to be loved and cared for in a time of vulnerability. It brings me joy to be able to do that for others. But what is that joy? Is it real? How can I know authentic joy of giving compassion to another without accepting compassion from someone else? More importantly, how can I know how to be compassionate to another without showing myself compassion first? These were my thoughts as I allowed the hand on my back to continue to console me and I decided that without compassion for ourselves first, we can't give it to anyone else in an authentic way. Any other form is just an ego gesture, a "show" of support or pity, while mostly just being grateful that it was them and not us who was having to endure whatever hardship we were "showing" so much compassion for.

I left that yoga practice with a newfound respect for how important it was that I be compassionate to myself as often as possible- when I don't wake up when I say I will, when I don't eat what I should even though I know it's going to make me feel like crap, when I fall short in a million little ways all the time and as we all do. With that respect also came a responsibility to practice compassion for myself as often as possible so that I can truly understand another person's struggles and work to let them know that they are never alone. Our struggle is how we share humanity and how we connect with one another. Even when we are celebrating success, we are really celebrating the struggle that it took to succeed. Our commitment to self-care quite simply allows the light within ourselves to connect with the light of another. With enough willing participants, our commitment to be Self-Centered will illuminate a household, a community, a country, and a planet.

With love and gratitude,

Kinda and Rachel

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