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It seems that everyday there is more tragic news of senseless violence and suffering. We can’t seem to get away from it even if we turn off all of our electronics. We hear people talking about it in the grocery store, at the park, our schools and social gatherings. There is a looming sense of fear that accompanies each week’s tragedy.

When we find the ways we are connected it allows us to lift the veil of ignorance

Emotions run high when we hear of the innocent victims and their families. Our feelings may range from fear to anxiety to anger to helplessness, and ultimately hopelessness. How do we manage our own reactions when faced with the everyday occurrences of hatred and violence? How can we act in a way that doesn’t contribute to the problem and yet allows us to be an effective agent for change in the world?

Now more than ever, we need stress management, including a yoga practice. Yoga has many techniques that allow us to reset our nervous system, retrain our responses, and live in harmony with others and ourselves. Yoga also offers us insight and perspective about how we can best take action that rebuilds our faith in humanity and lets us foster a deep sense of peace and well being.

Practicing Compassion, Deepening Our Connection

The practice of compassion, or Ahimsa (love and respect for all beings), is central to yoga teachings. Compassion lets us keep our hearts open by cultivating empathy and understanding. When we are able to feel what it might be like to live in someone else’s shoes, we deepen our connection to them.

When we feel afraid and angry it’s easy to want to lash out and feed our anger with more violence or hatred, but what is deeply needed in those moments is our heartfelt tenderness and compassion for others. When we reach into our hearts and find the ways we are connected, it allows us to lift the veil of ignorance that leads us to believe we are separate from each other. We then begin to see everyone and everything as connected and part of our human family. We can see that what we do to hurt another ultimately hurts everyone.

The First Step: A Daily Commitment

It’s easy to lose site of our compassion when we are stressed or overwhelmed, so the first step in developing understanding and compassion is to have a daily stress management/yoga practice that includes relaxation, breathing and meditation. These practices have a profound and proven effect on our stress response. They allow us to calm our own nervous system and relax the mind.

Daily practice of these techniques allows your fuse to grow longer so you have more space before you react to things. It’s in that space that we can choose how we want to react and respond to what is happening around us. We can respond in less hostile and more loving ways. We find our tolerance increases and we have the space to shift from one way of thinking about something to another more productive way.

When we are relaxed and calm we are aligned with our own gentleness and kindness. Respect and love for others spring naturally from our hearts.

More Compassion, More Love

The more each of us cultivates compassion in our own lives, the bigger the circle of love and compassion gets. In small ways we can begin to work with this practice each day. The place to start is right where you are… the opportunities are everywhere. It’s through small acts of kindness that we begin to heal our own hearts and the hearts of those around us.

One place to start may be in traffic when someone cuts you off. Or at the grocery store when the person in front of you just put 15 items down in the “10 items or less express aisle.” As we work with these small annoyances we develop tolerance.

Compassion Practice

Related Video playFeeling Compassion | Ornish Reversal Program

This can be done as a meditation or when you are on the spot with feeling angry or annoyed.

  • Begin with three slow deep breaths. Let your awareness shift to your own breath. Allow it to get smoother and longer.
  • If you are feeling annoyed or angry with, begin to imagine what it might be like to be them.
  • Imagine all of the circumstances that led them to be who they are in this moment.
  • Now imagine sending them understanding and kindness.
  • Even if you can’t imagine what it’s like to be them, still imagine sending kindness and even love.
  • Let the feeling of love fill your own heart and imagine sending it to their heart as well.
  • Let that feeling dissolve into your own heart.
  • When we practice with the little things, we build our muscles of tolerance, kindness and understanding. We stop adding to the cycle of violence and we take an active stand in the name of love and compassion. This allows us to actively do something that will ultimately shift our own perspective and ripple out into our own communities and the lives of others.

What do you notice when you practice kindness? Has it had an effect on those around you?






Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

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