Compassion Beyond Convenience
When we study yoga, we learn cool asanas, how to use our breath, and how to focus our mind. But what about the deeper lessons? The ones that actually have the power to change the world?
Yogic principles encourage us to cultivate compassion in our daily lives. Indeed, it’s easy to show compassion for the innocent, and for those we love. But what about those who have "wronged" us, and don't “deserve” it? It's not easy or convenient to act from our higher self in those cases, but that's likely when it counts the most.
Recently, I had a business exchange where the other person got very angry with me, and said hurtful things. It was in the wake of mistake on my part, but it was such a minor infraction that I couldn't imagine it would warrant harsh treatment. I’d previously been quite friendly with this person, so I was hurt by the lashing out. At first, I wanted some sort of vengeance to make me feel I'd regained some power—perhaps I could leave him a bad review online, give him a piece of my mind via text message, or contact his superior to let him know what had transpired.
But instead, I sat with my emotions—for a couple days, actually. I purposely directed my thoughts into a higher frame of mind. I thought, if this person can get so angry and hurtful at such a small offense, he must really be suffering. I began to feel compassion for him. Who knows what he’s going through, or has gone through in the past? Instead of striking back, I extended him the benefit of the doubt. I chose to see his reaction as a reflection of some sort of pain or turmoil in his life, rather than taking it personally.
Had I lashed out, he probably would have experienced more anger and suffering. We would have probably entered a tennis match of passing poison back and forth. Neither of us would have benefitted from that.
In the past, failure to dictate my boundaries or expectations has led to others taking advantage of me. But this is different. It was one incident, not a pattern of treatment. The compassionate thing to do was to extend him the benefit of the doubt and a second chance. Perhaps if it happens again, that would be the time to draw an appropriate boundary.
Without a doubt, it’s my yoga practice that helps me exercise compassion and understanding in situations like these. That’s because yoga has a way of dissolving the ego, the part of us that needs to get even or say, "How dare you treat ME that way!" This is why the world needs yoga--it's a conflict-killer. And these transformations are available to anyone willing to put in the work.
So do more yoga, and keep extending compassion, yogis! Let's lead by example as best we can. We won’t always be perfect—lord knows I’m not. Sometimes the urge to get even bubbles back to the surface, but I can take a moment and choose not to act on it. If we have these tools in our toolbox, we can choose compassion more often. The result is less conflict, and more peace and harmony in our communities. That’s a deep and REAL lesson of yoga we can use in our day-to-day life.
Much Love n' Namaste