Compassion for Self

B. H. Gunartana, from his book Eight Mindful Steps To Happiness, said,
"It is impossible to practice genuine compassion for others without the foundation of self-compassion. If we try to act compassionately out of a sense of personal unworthiness or the belief that others are more important than we are, the true source of our actions is aversion for ourselves, not compassion for others. Similarly, if we offer help out of a sense of cold superiority to those we are assisting, our actions may actually be motivated by pride. Genuine compassion arises from the tender heart we feel for our our own suffering, which we then see mirrored in the suffering of others. So compassion, grounded in wholesome self-love, motivates us to reach out sincerely to help."
Dalai Lama said,
“It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act. There are two aspects to action. One is to overcome the distortions and afflictions of your own mind… The other is more social, more public. When something needs to be done in the world to rectify the wrongs, if one is really concerned with benefiting others, one needs to be engaged, involved.”
Last week we discussed the Yamas and Niyamas of Patajali's Yoga Sutras, and today's update is about the asanas or yoga postures. Many people are attracted to yoga because of the physical workout that you receive when you practice. Often times their response to any teaching is for the instructor to "move on, stop talking, and teach me a new pose." However, the whole purpose of the yoga postures is to actually prepare you for corpse pose in the last five minutes. It is the practice of letting go similar to what happens when our physical bodies expire. While the physical workout is most enjoyable, can help you tone, lose weight, and be more flexible, yoga is a mind/body/spirit practice.

 The purpose of the asanas is to help us find a comfortable seat for meditation. Patanjali said that we should find "steadiness and ease" (sthira sukham asanam Sutra 2.67) in every pose. Steadiness would refer to motionless strength, and ease would associate with our bodies comfortable and filled with easy breath. One of the things that attracted me to yoga back in the mid 90's was that yoga helped me to relax after the hard workout. When my mind relaxed, it became more tolerant. From tolerance I grew to accept myself.

Through acceptance, I finally found the ability to let go of the hard taskmaster who lived in my brain that kept me from compassion towards who Jeanne was supposed to be. I was supposed to be perfect, and without knowing it, I expected the same of others. Now I know that the self-same ruler that I use for myself is the stick that I measure others with; for, I cannot love others without loving myself. Yoga has taught me the same lesson that Jesus taught, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

 As I let go of my own ego, competitive nature, or comparison, then and only then, can I truly love others. I begin to realize that even if I only practice 60 minutes of one familiar pose, my goal is to find sthira sukham asanam in that one yoga move.

 Steadiness, strength, isometric hold
 + flexibility, ease, 
comfort + asana with breath

 Letting go of my expectations will help me live my yoga off the mat and find greater compassion for others from my own heart. The next time you practice a pose try breathing out the words "I let go. I let be." Joy and sorrow, happiness and grief, it is all about learning to let go and learning to simply be.


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