Passion and Compassion

I began this Monday morning the way I usually do - with my Monday morning garden of beautiful yoginis. Last week we explored the theme of devotion, stories of Hanuman, and culminated class with Hanumanasana - which is the splits.

This week we continued working with lengthening and releasing the hamstrings by doing poses like Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana (extended hand to toe pose), and revisiting Hanumanasana, with the theme of "passion and compassion," woven in throughout the class.

After my initial remarks on the theme, I shared this reading from The Radiance Sutras, translated by Lorin Roche, that seemed to illustrate the essence of "passion:"

"When possessed by lust,
or anger,
jealousy -

Dive deeper.
Throw yourself with wild abandon into
the elemental motion of emotion.

Fire burning, illuminating,
water gushing, moistening,
air inspiring, soothing,
earth supporting, holding,
space expanding, embracing.

Go deeper still and rest in essence,
awaken to infinite spiritual energy
surging into form."

My own teacher had used the theme of "passion and compassion" in her classes last week, but I chose to go a slightly different route with it.

I noted, that what brings us to a yoga class initially, is not what keeps us there. At first, our practice might be characterized by a lot of passion. But in time, this may give way to compassion - which is a heart quality very much linked to love and devotion. Passion may bring us to the practice, but compassion is the fruit of that practice.

Passion makes us feel vibrantly, and as a result, we hold on to the object of our passion. But compassion, enables us to let go and set things free.

Compassion literally means "to feel with" and it is at the heart of all great spiritual and philosophical traditions. It is compassion that changes us - and yoga as a practice - is a technology for transformation. It connects us to our passion, but ultimately teaches us compassion not only for others - but for ourselves - which is often more challenging for us.

The poet Hafiz once wrote:

"I wish I could show you
when you are lonely
or in darkness,
the astonishing light
of your own being."

My students and I explored and embodied the theme for today with joy, lots of laughter, and at times irreverence as well, and we acknowledged the incredible journey that we are privileged to share together.

I ended class with this reading from The Radiance Sutras, which I felt captured the essence of compassion:

"Extend your awareness
into the body of other living beings,
feel what those others are feeling.

Leave aside your body and its needs,
abandon being so local.

Day by day, constrictions will loosen,
as you become attuned
to the current of life
flowing through us all."


Cynde said…
This was an excellent theme and tying together of the two ideas. Yesterday was the 2nd time I stopped into Church for a few quick prayers before coming to class and found it helps deepen the practice as well. Would you do me a favor please and post the Invocation on here so I can save for myself? Thank you and God Bless!
Olga Rasmussen said…
How beautiful to stop into church for prayers - wow! I will post the invocation later this day! Blessings sent to you in a shower of grace!

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