Sometimes it feels like our world is so divided, so separate and not interconnected. But we ARE all interconnected. What I do has an affect and what you do has an affect----let’s not forget that. The Dalai Lama says: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
But it can be hard to be compassionate when we are faced with so many awful events and challenges in our society today. Having a little more compassion towards ourselves and others can help ease the tension we may feel. One of my favorite quotes from the Yoga Sūtra is “Being firmly grounded in non-violence creates an atmosphere in which others can let go of their hostility.” This means when we come from a place of kindness, or softness, we give others the opportunity to do the same. Compassion can really affect positive change in our world. But, how do we cultivate compassion when we feel the hostility ourselves? Here are a few ideas to explore:
Meditating on a regular basis (ideally each day) helps us cultivate a quality of non-reactivity, pratyāhāra in Sanskrit and the 5th limb of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. During your meditation you practice letting go of your thoughts with a little more ease as you learn to not react to your thoughts. Thoughts arise during our meditation practice, that’s the nature of our minds. But when we react to a thought, our imagination can spiral us into a place that may not be productive and then we have a tendency to react in an unskillful way. Being able to gently release a thought without reactivity is really one of the key benefits we get from meditating. This skill naturally carries into our day-to-day lives giving us the power to pause, take a breath and then thoughtfully respond to a situation.
Consider Right and Wrong is not Black and White
One of my favorite teachers, Michael Stone, gave many talks on ethics, the yamas and the 1st limb of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. Michael’s approach to ethics was different from what we typically expect. He taught about “Situational Ethics,” which involves trusting that we will know what to do in any situation. He encouraged us to drop fixed perceptions and meet each moment fully and without prejudice. To do this takes understanding of the spirit behind the rules so that we want to embody ethics and not feel forced to follow them. Michael’s teachings were based on love, compassion and honesty. Life is not black and white, right or wrong---it is messy, beautiful, and emotional. Through studying the yoga and Buddhist philosophies and maintaining a consistent meditation practice we can train ourselves to react less and respond more skillfully to life situations.
Vote this November
It will make you feel good that you are taking action to help make our world a better place. Another teaching of Michael Stone was that meditation is political, that inner transformation and social change go hand in hand. When we cultivate positive thoughts we take positive actions. I appreciate how he focused on inner transformation as the cornerstone to affecting change. I encourage you to take positive action by voting and encouraging those around you to vote too! If you aren’t registered to vote do it now by clicking on the link below.
Together we can make a difference!