To fill yourself with compassion is the greatest gift you can give yourself. When we find compassion for ourselves and for other people there is no room for anger, annoyance or jealousy. For that reason, I believe compassion is the absolute ultimate key to happiness.
I used to be filled with a lot of anger. I remember once I thought the deli guy cut my turkey too thick, and launched into a screaming fit in the middle of apartment (by myself, mind you) that concluded with me collapsing in a pile of tears. It was not unusual to hear me say “go f*#k yourself!” to any one who had the audacity to get in MY way. Clearly, there was an issue.
Before we can build to compassion, if anger is as enveloping for you as it once was for me, I highly recommend an asana practice in combination with pranayama(breath work) and/or meditation. Opening up communication with our bodies and the energies and emotions stored within is always a powerful and transformative practice, and allowing past hurts and rubbish (apana) to release and therefore make room for prana (life force) is a vital part of cultivating compassion. Until you get the painful, dark energy moving and ultimately out, there will be no room to build the contented lives we all want; we must make space.
Whether you have a yoga practice or not, starting with a simple heart opener every morning, especially in the warmth of the sun, can be really comforting. Of course, it can also be scary, depending on how open or closed your heart chakra is.I ask you not to push yourself too much, but just try to open your heart at least once daily before you leave your home. Open it to yourself, and to all the people you will encounter throughout the day. Set the intent of compassion.
A simple asana for opening the heart:
1. bring your hands behind your back
2. intertwine them
3. roll your shoulders back. Your chest will automatically come forward bringing your heart into the light, when you do this bring your chin away from your chest and try to look up toward the sky.
This is literally called a heart opener!
If you’d like you can also picture a vibrant green four- petaled lotus flower spinning and blossoming in your heart space, and you can do this throughout your day. If you are not familiar with chakra work, or yoga as a life practice, then please do this and the heart opener gently. If you want to delve further, then I highly recommend allowing the guidance of a trained healer or teacher.
When we find compassion for ourselves, it may be easier for us to find compassion for other people. If anger, jealousy or general agitation are emotions that plague you they will begin to be replaced with liberation and lightness. When we are compassionate toward others before finding that same kindness for ourselves, the heart will still begin to flourish and pulsate. Think of it as a chicken and egg scenario; when we find ways to celebrate others’ joy instead of trying to undermine them or experiencing bitterness, a true sense of calm and satisfaction falls over us. It is when we are unkind , manipulative, or jealous that we become sad and angry-celebration begets celebration, misery begets misery. Regardless of whether you open yourself to compassion by loving yourself, showing compassion to others, or a beautiful simultaneous awareness of both aspects, joy and peace will always be the result and eventually the love will flow in all directions. Keep in mind though, compassion is NOT weakness. If someone is treating you unacceptably, find compassion for YOURSELF, and remove yourself from the situation or relationship (platonic or romantic).
When the heart is open and living in compassion we are open to any experience or interaction the universe chooses to deliver to us. When we break out of our negative samskaras (habits of the mind), and find lightness and joy for everyone in our hearts, our entire existence becomes liberated.
Like the Yoga Sutra states,
“Kindness to those who are happy
Compassion for those who are less fortunate
Honor for those who embody noble qualities
Equanimity to those whose actions oppose your values”
In creating this NEW, positive samskara, you too will be happy.
When you find compassion towards other people, I assure you everyday interactions and occurrences will never be unpleasant again. I know I know! I’m sure many of you are thinking “WHAT!? That sounds impossible”. I remember reading something along those same lines in The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi, and thinking, “yea, when hell freezes over”. But all of sudden, since I’ve been doing my compassion and heart chakra work, I know exactly what Nischala is speaking of, and if I can find that place I promise you can.
The guy who bumps into you, the person who cuts you off, the co worker who speaks in a condescending tone. Next time someone ticks you off, especially a stranger, think to yourself “where is this person from, what sadness lives in them? or frustration or anger?….maybe they have to go to bathroom…or had a fight with their spouse..maybe they just lost a loved one…maybe they grew up in abuse”… your heart will soften toward them and toward yourself, instead of allowing your solar plexus to bubble up in anger. Not only that but you’ll simultaneously be working on breaking down your ego (one of the main goals of yoga).
The ego breaks down in this place because we remind ourselves that the universe does not revolve around us, and perhaps we are not on the forefront of “strangers” mind. Your compassion and therefore ability to live in constant calm and patience will grow because you are practicing finding it. If you believe that the person who just spoke to you rudely has had a hard life or perhaps just a hard day, you’ll be much less likely to be angry at them(which is better for you!); instead you’ll find kindness for them, and softness within yourself. If someone really grates your nerves, think about how little or how much you may know about them. Ask yourself what made them so abrasive,unkind, annoying, socially inept and you will literally feel a place in your chest (it’s your heart!) soften. I have had this experience, and it is powerful and encouraging. When you find heart softness for all you meet, warmth and gratitude take over, and because you’re being open and kind many beautiful surprises will fill your day.
Living in compassion brings:
happiness for others
Not living in compassion brings:
a blocked heart
Remember this is all a practice, so do not become discouraged and certainly do not chastise yourself if you have a set back, rather find compassion for YOURSELF in that moment, and keep moving forward.
When you work on finding compassion for yourself and everyone you encounter, your life will change, and your heart will begin to bloom with life in spectacular ways. I invite you to grow your heart garden to its full ripe lushness, and you will find your life becoming a juicy apple filled with potential and peace.
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