Musings on Karuna: The Practice of Compassion

This week, we continued to explore the second of the brahmaviharas - which is karuna - or benevolent compassion, as a theme in my yoga classes. We connected this to the action of Inner Spiral to widen our hips, and our lower backs, all the way up to T12, and up to the back doors of our hearts. By creating this opening by widening needed areas within our bodies, we begin to widen our perspectives and perceptual lens as well. Only then, can we truly embody compassion. Only then, can we truly embrace the unity that is at the root and heart of all diversity.

We often regard compassion as a form of love - and very much like the practice of metta - or lovingkindness, we must cultivate compassion toward ourselves - in order to more fully embody and reflect it to others.

Kuan Yin is the Goddess of Compassion to the Japanese and Tibetan Buddhists, and the story is often told that when she was ascending to heaven at the end of her life, she heard the cries of all the suffering beings that were left behind, and she vowed to return until every last living soul attained salvation or nirvana and was freed from suffering. It is said, that in times of great distress, images of her appear in Asia - much as the Virgin Mary appears historically to Catholics in times of need.

When I reflect on the importance of compassion, I cannot help but think of a dear soul who lost a child at birth. She told me once that despite the incredible pain she experienced, she would undergo it again, because it taught her great compassion for all those who suffer. I was amazed, and have often seen her profoundly moved when events cause great strife to others. In those occasions, she literally becomes the embodiment of prayer - sending them out with great devotion throughout all hours of the night - never indulging or giving in to her own need for rest.

I wonder, what it would be like to become the embodiment of compassion - much like this dear friend - and be truly compassionate in all my thoughts and deeds? As I went for a walk today, I thought of my own writings - poetry and musings - and while they have not yielded me any real income - I wholeheartedly believe that there is an innate and collective vibration to all of those words that are infused with the power to affect things energetically, and I know they will continue to pulsate throughout the universe for all eternity.

I thought of the power of the "Matrika Shakti" and how we can profoundly alter a whole climate and environment - and even the prevailing ethos of a society or community. How powerful is that? I only hope that all of my good words - my "bon mots" will outweigh those that were hurtful and mean at the end of my life.

Every now and then, I am struck by the self-less love and compassion of ordinary beings - doing something extraordinary for their fellow brothers and sisters. I love the fact that NBC Nightly News ends its broadcast every night, by profiling someone who is making a difference. Truly, in these moments, I can't imagine that anyone could deny that we are all one...

I pray to be compassion itself in everything I do, I write, I say, and I think. I invite my students - and indeed - all who read this entry - and myself as well - to create a greater opening in our bodies to widen our perceptual lens - so that we can truly take our practices off of our mats and into the world.


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