The above is one of the attitudes that is listed in the Yoga Sutras, the version I like is The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi, This particular line sticks with me as it is not an easy one but it has had a special significance for me since the election and then came up for me again in February. The full sutra is:
1.33 To preserve openness of heart and calmness of mind, nurture these attitudes:
Kindness to those who are happy
Compasion for those who are less fortunate
Honor for those who embody noble qualities
Equanimity to those whose actions oppose your values.
Last month at Tranquil Space we had the theme of Compassion, loved it and thank my fellow teacher Kat Buechel for picking it, which may seem an easy focus until you get into the details. The teaching of this sutra in concept may appear easy but then it is putting it into practice in our everyday lives. While I will acknowledge that I am not always filled with compassion as I am human, it is the last one that I have always thought to be my biggest challenge. It is the one that stopped me when first reading it to really sink in and it is the one I come back to the most.
Devi talks about this equanimity in that "forgiveness is often misunderstood. There is a reluctance to grant it," because there is the thought that by forgiving the person does not have to answer for their offense. What forgiving actually does is allow us to let it go so we don't carry with us the negative feelings. Showing compassion to those whose actions oppose our values, helps us keep our own self power and self worth. Holding onto the negative feelings is allowing someone else to hold a part of our heart.
Years ago when I was in therapy and before yoga, this idea came up as I was treated unfairly by someone I thought was my friend in college. While telling my therapist about the incident, she asked me why I was still letting her have that power over me? That made me stop and realize that I had not moved on from the hurt, instead I was allowing that hurt to keep me years in the past. I wish I could say that I now let go of what I see as wrongs done to me but no, still working on it which is why this attitude is one that will keep coming up. When I focused on this attitude in my classes I invited students to have compassion toward themselves if they found they had a hard time digesting this one. I also invited them to practice a loving kindness meditation. This can be done toward yourself or to another, in this instance I asked students to picture someone whose actions they felt opposed their own values. Then to say:
May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful.
I invite you to try this meditation, you can start by saying it toward yourself. Then focus on someone you love and then finally someone who challenges you. Observe how you feel after doing it, for me I feel settled so I hope you find it peaceful too.
I am a DC based yoga teacher, wife, mother of two kids and three animals who is using yoga both on and off the mat to find balance.