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“Kindness for those who are happy, compassion for those who are less fortunate, honor for those who embody noble qualities, equanimity for those whose actions oppose your values.”

The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Devi (yoga sutras 1: 33)

These are wise words from the ancient teachings of yoga and they can help us to preserve an open heart and tranquil mind. It’s easy to ride the roller coaster of emotions when someone around us isn’t acting according to our wishes, or when we face difficulties in our relationships. How do we cultivate peace within our own hearts and minds as well as harmony with those around us? The practice of Yoga holds these four keys for unlocking and restoring inner peace.

When we practice letting our hearts be touched by others we can let our own joy be ignited

Kindness For Those Who are Happy

We have all been there…when someone we know is exuding joy and happiness. They may be telling us about the wonderful vacation they just had or about their love for their children. You can even feel happiness rising up inside of them as they share it with you. You want to be happy for them but you can feel yourself going over your own disappointments.  How do you let their joy in when you aren’t feeling joyful?

To start,  try to hold a space in which your challenging emotions can surface while at the same time letting someone else’s joy touch your heart. We can honor and acknowledge our own feelings and negative emotions when they arise, and yet simultaneously open our hearts to the joy of others. This very practice of opening our own hearts to others’ joy can begin to transform our own insecurities and negative emotions. When we practice letting our hearts be touched by others we can let our own joy be ignited.

Compassion For Those Who are Less Fortunate

Each day we come into contact with those who are less fortunate than we are and it can stir up unrest in our own hearts and minds. Why them? Should I help? Do they deserve help?

When I look into the eyes of the man who stands on my street corner with his sign asking for help, I often feel helpless, sad and sometimes I can’t even look for fear it could easily be me.

Others may feel angry or righteous when faced with this situation. When I visit my friends who are struggling with chronic illness, or listen to the hardship of others, these are all moments of deep reflection for me. It is easy to lose your center when faced with the suffering of others, yet cultivating compassion allows you to connect deeply to others while allowing others to feel your genuine support and love. It can help us maintain a sense of peace in our own hearts.

Honor for Those Who Embody Noble Qualities

There are so many great leaders and healers whose light illuminates our path and the paths of others. Some have a big impact in the world and others silently model altruism without the attention and fanfare. When we are fortunate enough to be in the presence of these noble qualities, our humility and respect allows us to align with those same qualities within us.

Honoring others is a way of honoring ourselves since we would not be able to see those qualities in others if we didn’t possess them in ourselves. When we get lost in feelings of jealousy or envy we can gently turn our attention to those qualities that we appreciate and let that fill our hearts with the reminder that we too possess them. The more we can see and acknowledge them in others, the more those qualities will shine within us.

Equanimity for Those Whose Actions Oppose Your Values

All we have to do is turn on the coverage of the elections this year to see how emotional people become about what they believe to be right or wrong. One person is quite sure this is the right way while another is spouting the exact opposite to be the truth. In no time the conversation escalates, they  are each yelling at one another, and all peace is lost. It can take hours for our nervous system and adrenaline levels to return to normal after these kinds of emotional expenditures. It can be important to remember that there have been times when we may have acted or spoken poorly or thought unkindly about another, or hurt someone directly.

Yoga teaches us to have equanimity for those who we don’t agree with or who oppose our values. This allows us to maintain our own peace of mind. It would be wonderful if all people always acted with honor and consciousness, but unfortunately this is not always the way.

Each day we meet those who are happier than we are, those who are suffering, those doing noble things and those who seem to oppose our values. If we can cultivate kindness towards those who are happier than we are, compassion toward those who are less fortunate, respect for those who are doing noble actions, and equanimity by remaining undisturbed by those who oppose our value, our minds will remain tranquil. Swami Satchidananda says: “Remember, our goal is to keep the serenity of our minds.” He says these four keys will help anyone maintain peacefulness through anything.

How has cultivating these four qualities helped you feel more peaceful in challenging situations and relationships?

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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