Life is full of annoyances and problems and I’m sure we know this but sometimes we get caught on the “hamster wheel” of life – simply repeating over and over. When the wheel changes or stops we panic and although we hated just running in a circle we often just want it to stay the same. “Bring back the familiar!”
I say this not with judgement but with compassion as I too do this myself. I find by improving my awareness that I can identify when I’m off track faster and let go with greater ease. The art of Compassion is one I find helpful to further my own awareness more. It is the art of seeing another persons point of view or side to things with love and grace. Scientifically speaking compassion is a part of the brain that has to be used though. So we can talk about it all we want but have to “use it or loose it”.
This holiday has been great for me to meet up with so many I haven’t seen in a while; practicing the art of compassion to be a better listener myself. I try to make good eye contact and take in what the person is saying vs already thinking about my response back or what I wanted to hear. It makes it even harder when you are in a crowded room to stay focused, but I like the challenge. I tell myself “Stay right here” as I focus on their eyes, voice and hear them.
I had a great conversation the other day with a good friend about her need for a new couch. She just had a baby this year so she started describing a conversation she had with her husband about their need for a new couch. He really wants to get something nice. Her reaction to this was full of worry and concern. “The couch is going to get stains, have spit-up from the baby and get dirty – I don’t think he understands.” Her solution was to stick with the old dirty couch they had. I found myself listening, having compassion and views to each side. Then out of my mind came this thought “But life is full of stains – does that mean I shouldn’t move on or forward because it will be messy?” She and I laughed at this simple idea and I witnessed where she was physically holding within herself body as well. Once she let go of the stress her shoulders relaxed. She realized that maybe a compromise was reachable and not quite as hard as she had imagined.
Compassion is something that has to be cultivated and will change over time as well. Anything born out of causes or conditions is bound to change, yet our first response is often to resist it. To build compassion doesn’t mean that you toss aside yourself -which we often do. This is where finding a middle ground is tough. Yet I have to be upfront – although there are tons of articles, stories and books on “being balanced” – I don’t believe we were meant to be in the middle all the time. What yoga and meditation has taught me is that just like a physical balancing posture – I will wiggle, fall or struggle. Being more mindful of the experience though I can listen for the signs and try to come back to my center again. But more than making balance a focus or goal – we can start to relax into the experience just as it is. Even if that just happens to be sad or painful. (Those I teach Prenatal Yoga already know that I talk about this in class already)
What I’m talking about we may agree but it is the practice that is quite a challenge. I think we rationalize for the big events but it also happens in the small areas too. I live and work in a DC which has tons of traffic congestion. Sometimes I find myself yelling or getting upset at yet another person driving up the shoulder to squeeze in. The art of driving with compassion becomes an every day area that I can take advantage to practice it more. If I explore the moment, I find that my chest gets tight, that my breath is shallow and my jaw hurts from clenching. When I make the choice to let go I’m able to find myself first being kind to myself and then to others. Telling myself to give more space to my breath, relaxing my grip on the wheel and just let them go. Maybe they too had a hard day and often they wave back in such a way that they really appreciated the help.
Besides teaching yoga, I am also a recruiter. One reason I like helping those look for new jobs is that I often come across those who just need guidance or help. Some come to me very upset that they just got laid off. They disliked their boss, tons of hours, travel and even who they were themselves, but then they are quick to panic and just want it all back. I often suggest to them that this could be a great chance to make yourself happy. Start by letting go of the material things and ask yourself what that is? Sure I get paying bills, eating and providing. But our fear often keeps us from doing what is best for our happiness.
I’ve been there though – shocked and stunned, crying because I didn’t know which way to go. I’ve had management point the finger, blame and say some hurtful things. In the end I found myself drawing inward to meditate. Sometimes by waiting I see that the anger was the cause of something deeper from the source; I was just an innocent bi-stander.
For years of working in accounting, recruiting and teaching yoga I have seen many “burn-out”. The word is so common but do we admit to ourselves when it has happened? We talk about how out of balance we are but balance can be different things to different people so it isn’t as simple as – “they work too much”. I think it comes down to “Why” you are doing what you are doing – not What it is. Your Dharma or purpose is your own unique code. If your purpose is to give, you do so each day without alarm to the time spent. Yet if it is for something like things, money, ego – it doesn’t last very long.
We each have our own stains – some are more obvious than others. But finding time to be still and quiet I find helps me come back to my own code of what is right for me. Sometimes that means saying “no I can’t do that”. My upbringing used to make me feel bad for saying “no” but I have long learned that just like the instructions you get on the airplane about the drop-down oxygen masks – I have to put the mask on myself first if I’m going to be of any help to anyone else.
So this holiday I suggest we each take many moments to put the mask on yourself first. From this you will find yourself serving and giving too others more. I myself will be giving myself my holiday treat of stepping away from my social media, phone and email for the week with my family. I know it will be hard at first but I started doing this years ago and found it amazing how much time there is to do other things when my computer & phone is put away. Especially on the holiday it is a time to listen, be with others and appreciate all we have today.
May you be peaceful and happy this holiday. Shanti.