I have been thinking a lot lately about ‘Compassion’ and what it really means to be compassionate towards others. My understanding of this word has changed immensely in the 12 years that I have been teaching yoga but never more so than right now…….

In the words of the Dalai Lama – “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” 

Hmm – Easier said than done!  Eventually though, through regular practice of meditation, my reading of a few deep meaningful books and attendance of several workshops with some highly regarded meditation and philosophy teachers, I am gaining more wisdom and I’m getting on track with ‘compassion’. I’m starting to fully comprehend it, but it requires a lot of reflection, the ability to keep it real and genuine practice in my every day life.

Compassion is at the heart of our Yoga teachings, but do ‘you’ completely understand what being compassionate really means? Basically, in life, some people either rub us up the wrong way, annoy us, really irritate us, upset us, make us angry, leave a very bitter taste in our mouth or just plain – piss us off!  My question to you is; ‘Do you retaliate and give as good as you get, do you react in a selfish way, or do you even choose to avoid these people, block them on social media or just cut them out of your life completely?’ If you do any of theses things, then you are literally standing in your own way, in other words, you – yourself are standing in the way of true compassion and your own feelings of inner peace and happiness. If you cannot let go, you cannot move on with love and kindness in your heart……

Every time I teach meditation, I always begin by telling students to ‘let go’, because until we can let go of trying to control everything, past experiences, influences, thought patterns or our own hang ups, we are holding ourselves back from moving on with our lives in a positive open minded way. This means that we cannot possibly begin to connect to authentic deeper feelings of warmth, kindness, love and peacefulness within our own being.

Compassion has to begin with letting go in order for us to be able to feel empathy towards another. Now I know this can be really really hard initially, especially when we may believe (through our own personal perception) that someone is annoying or has mistreated us in one way or another. So perhaps we need to take a little time out first to reflect, meditate, be calm and get clarity. Then and only then, can we get over our own emotions.

‘Letting go’ of what has rubbed you up the wrong way is absolutely paramount to compassion, if you can’t let go then you are getting in your own way once again and you are the one that will suffer. We have to get over ourselves and our personal opinions and solely think of the other person. When we think about how we should be treated, what we want, how something has affected us, we cannot be compassionate to the other person. Being compassionate is to instead, try to put ourselves in the mind of the other person and imagine what they could be going through or have been through in the past that made them behave in a way that provoked you. Also, try to imagine the background of that person. Try to imagine how that person has been influenced as a child by their parents and everyone that they have had a relationship or spent time with since they were born. Everyone’s past experiences will be a reflection of how they see and deal with the world today. Try also to imagine the day or week that person is going through, which may have affected their mood and state of mind. Compassion begins when you can understand that their action was because these behaviour impressions are set in them and it is all they know.

Compassion is having a desire to actually go out of your way to be kind, empathetic and understanding to all of the above. Compassion is being ‘self-less’ rather than ‘selfish’ because the moment we turn it back on ourselves, we cant possibly empathise. This of course requires practice and training just like anything else in our lives, but it has to be an emotional response of really truly caring when encountering what is actually a person’s suffering.

Scientific studies report that there are also physical benefits to practicing compassion, we can produce 100% more DHEA, which is a hormone that counteracts the aging process, and 23% percent less of the stress hormone – cortisol.

The other main benefit is that – get this – ‘You’ – yourself become happier, and then it has a knock on affect, others around you also become happier – compassion is contagious.

Compassion is one of the main tools for achieving happiness so invite it more and more in to your life. Try your best to practice Compassion and Kindness every day to everyone.

Go spread the lurve ~~~~~~

Love Brigitte xxx