compassion & kindness

'Be kind because everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.'

Taking some time, in yoga class this week, to contemplate compassion and kindness in our lives.

Patanjali’s yoga sutras, written over 2000 years ago, capture the essence of yoga in 196 verses or ‘threads’. Patanjali writes of compassion in sutra 1.33.

B.K.S Iyengar’s translates this sutra to ask us ‘to rejoice with the happy, to be compassionate to the sorrowful, friendly to the virtuous, and indifferent to those who continue to live in vice despite our attempts to change them.’

And Desikachar’s interpretation so beautifully states ‘In daily life we see people around who are happier than we are, people who are less happy. Some may be doing praiseworthy things and others causing problems. Whatever may be our usual attitude toward such people and their actions, if we can be pleased with others who are happier than ourselves, compassionate toward those who are unhappy, joyful with those doing praiseworthy things, and remain undisturbed by the errors of others, our mind will be very tranquil. 

This sutra provides the key to living with compassion. To be kind and gentle in how you relate to yourself and others isn’t easy when you’re human, especially to be indifferent to the  imperfections and mistakes, and refraining from trying to change them.

We know we can’t change anyone else, we can only change ourselves. But this doesn’t always stop us from trying!

And it can be really difficult to empathise with those you find it difficult to relate to, or have different values and attitudes to, particularly when they do things you don’t agree with, or they trigger you, get on your nerves, and even more so when you don’t condone their actions.

What is really interesting is that when we practice compassion, towards others, and ourselves, it has a profound impact on our empathy and self-acceptance. And the more we practice compassion, the easier it becomes. This week we practice loving kindness or metta meditation in yoga. This practiced daily has been found to reduce inflammation, anxiety and feelings of anger along with improving social relationships and increasing confidence.

Tuning in this week to others feelings, as well as your own. Take time to stop and notice, perhaps feel, what’s going on for you. When we stop to process our own challenges we paradoxically make room to show compassion to others.