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Radical Compassion

Tucked into the pages of the sometimes daunting, oft confusing, but ultimately aha-worthy, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are 10 little directives call the Yamas and Niyamas. There are five of each.

The Yamas are five restraints, or things we practice NOT doing, while the Niyamas are five observances that would serve us well if we did them. The very first of all of them is Ahimsa. Non-harming. Or to put another way, compassion. But it’s a little more than that too.

Ahimsa asks us to look first at our place in the world. What we believe is our place. If we are coming from that teeny tiny seed that was planted maybe forever ago that “I’m not enough,” then Ahimsa and all the ones that follow will be challenging. But, maybe, that’s kind of the point. It’s work. It is THE work.

Do you practice self-compassion? Do you love what you see in the mirror? Are you comfortable with your family of origin and your place in it? Do you see every opportunity as a gift? No? Then, welcome, let’s get to work.

This non-harming business encompasses thought, word and deed. Negative self-talk, self-deprecation, over-indulging in anything or deprivation. These are antithetical to self-love and compassion.

It’s often said that one must begin to clean up one’s house before grabbing the broom to sweep the home of another. Or something like that. But starting with self-compassion is hard And if it’s hard, we humans will generally avoid it.

Because everything is fine just how it is, right?

If embracing the signs of aging, being okay with the results of over-consumption or loving the place you’re in right now does not feel like an option, look outside of yourself. Begin where it will be easy. Instead of scolding a pet, understand your role in its behavior. Extend grace to the crabby sales person or the reckless driver. Listen to a friend with the intention of hearing and not responding. Maybe the words of Stephen Covey would help here, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

By catching ourselves in behavior that feels out of place or icky, we ARE doing the work on ourselves. When we start to offer compassion to others a funny thing happens, our hearts begin to open just the tiniest bit to allow more space for more compassion for more people and eventually it all circles back to you and finding compassion for what you perceive to be your imperfections becomes a love-fest of gratitude for all you have and all you do and all you are. It just keeps growing and growing.

Pay attention. Cultivate awareness of how you think, talk and interact with others. What are you telling yourself? How are you honoring the delicious diversity of others? How are you loving all of life?

Just be kind. The world needs your kindness.