800 Miles into a cross-country trek to a live in a new city racing to make it on time to close on our new home, the wheel on our Uhaul trailer blew out and it required commercial tools to replace. We were stuck. WTF.
Compassion is the closest single-word translation that we can get when considering 'Karuna', Yoga's word for compassion. But in my opinion it's a wonky fit. This sort of Karuna-compassion means something deeper.
It means to seek to diminish the suffering of others. No fixing. No hierarchy of who has their 'ish more together. No lectures. No patronizing. Just a genuine desire to lessen suffering - to bring ease in hopes to balance another's great effort.
Isn't that a relief? I mean, who wants to 'feel sorry' for someone, or themselves? That's junk compassion. That creates a separateness from the current situation. It puts a polarity on situations - makes them bad or good. Well situations are just situations and sometimes we don't have a lot of control over the outcome. We all are going to have days that are crummy, circumstances we'd rather not face, decisions we're not proud of. But it helps, very little, to have someone 'feel sorry' for you. What we need is a hand to hold. A listening ear. A present friend.
Let's start with ourselves. Let's model compassion with an understanding that there's nothing to fix. Life is life and when the going gets tough, the best way out it through, armored with a whole heap of compassion.
My husband hates going out for tapas - the Spanish snack-style dishes - and I totally understand his logic.
In his line of thinking Tapas as a meal choice with friends is inherently flawed. Tapas are designed to be a snack food that comes with drinks. Sounds fine, but not quite a meal. So when it blew up to be a thing that was trendy. everyone had to pretend to enjoy the invite to a meal with friends that would ultimately end in a late-night date with yesterday's leftovers. Sharing Tapas with friends is most often results in a secret war of politeness inviting their dining-mates to, 'please, have the last one." Secretly everyone is discreetly jockeying for their fair share of too-small, too-expensive plates. It smarts with dissatisfaction.
What does this have to do with yoga? Almost nothing. Except, in Yoga we also have the word Tapas, but it means something entirely different.
No. Tapas in Yoga does not refer to shared plate snacks. But sometimes it does mean finding graciousness during moments of challenge or disappointment.
Tapas, in the Yogic sense, translates as 'to burn' and it refers to a fiery discipline. This stick-to-it-ness comes in handy when we approach something that is otherwise uncomfortable, like a overpriced night out that leaves you hangry. Tapas is the willpower we cultivate to burn off limiting beliefs, bad attitudes, our desire to quit, and our urge to throw a temper tantrum when the going gets tough. Sometimes the urge to leave, to bail, is so great that sticking with a commitment feels like a standing in fire. Tapas invites us to remember that the only way out is through, and with no striving for a quick or even satisfying end, we can commit to the breath and the moment and the practice until we find a place where we begin to cool off and loosen the grip.
On the other side of the fire so often we find sweet, full-bellied satisfaction.
Days like today tickle my philosophical mind. Happy 4th of July!
I grew up talking history with my father. He would debate political issues with me, and listen to me, patiently, when I stumbled through half-baked ideas. As I moved into adulthood these debates became more and more heated, and there were times in my coming of age when I felt that there could be no common ground. Now, as an adult, we still enter lively debate, but I see that we have so much in common. He says that I am simply understanding more because I am older and have life experience.
Maybe that's true.
But, also, in the heart we both want for the same things, even if our ideas of how to achieve them seem wildly different.
Today is a beautiful day when I am able to celebrate the joy and honor it is to be a citizen of the United States of America. A guiding principle of this country is our shared belief that all people are created equal. We don't always do it perfectly, but it is something worth striving to find.
In yoga, it is the same. The word 'Yoga' itself which means 'to yoke' or more commonly 'union'. Seeing the sameness in our mind-body connection, as well as our sameness with others. I feel an added layer of intimacy when equal is viewed through the lens of 'same'. Recognizing that I am no different that others, and protecting this ideal, provides a pathway to Freedom. My freedom is contingent on the freedom of my neighbors because we are one in the same.
It would be naive to say that's easy. Most often it is the opposite. History has taught us that Freedom is hard to defend, and even the idea of being on the defensive causes us to armor our hearts for conflict.
But, not every day is made for fighting. When a fight it not the answer but the itchiness of separateness seems to create a widening gap between us and others, Yoga invites us to put down righteous arguments and seek a middle way which leads by example. The Yogic traditions also give us another word to guide us along this journey of recognizing sameness, Upeksha, or equanimity. This is a balanced approach to having a heartfelt approach to all beings, where our mind, and body may be stirred into action when we witness injustice, but our state of being is not so disrupted to the point that we lash out in rash or unwise ways. We are able to approach all experiences, all people, without preferences clouding our judgement or fear cupping our eyes into the retreat of wishing the present moment was anything other than it is. When the moment is not so dire that a fight is necessary, we are invited to moderate our response seeing disagreements with a cool, level head even while striving towards a more ideal future.
I find this wisdom so poignant today, of all days, when it would be easy to feel torn from neighbors and loved ones that might think differently about the current state of affairs. It can be hard to listen to an opposing view and trust that they have equal right to that view, and also that deep down that we are more alike than we are different.
What a worthwhile meditation! Let's stay awake to the common ground we can all find on this special holiday.
Sweet places my writing has been featured ...
Bend Into Shape
For people who love dogs, yoga, good food and/or great parties ... that covers everyone right?