How Compassion changed my life.
"One Tibetan monk... who had spent more than 18 years in a Chinese prison labour camp... told me that on a few occasions he really faced some danger. So I asked him, 'What danger? What kind of danger?', thinking he would tell me of Chinese torture and prison. He replied, 'Many times I was in danger of losing compassion for the Chinese.'"
- The Dalai Lama
The remarkable story of Palden Gyatso has always sat in my heart and with this week’s theme, I had the opportunity to look a bit deeper into it. Gyatso, a Tibetan monk, was held captive in a Chinese prison for 18 years. Every day the guards would torture him and every day he would return to his cell and sit deep in compassionate meditation. Of all the horrors he experienced, his greatest fear was that he would lose his compassion for his torturers. He says that in the moment of torture, trauma and pain, he did feel angry, fury, fear and pain but his daily choice to find compassion for these other beings kept him sane and kept him coming back to his heart. In later research, it was found that this compassion meditation that Gyatso engaged in daily, contributed so profoundly to his mental health that after his experience he was able to live his life free from trauma and suffering. Another being in this position, without this daily compassion meditation, would have probably been left traumatised, full of anger and mentally unwell. This story reiterates for me the power and importance of loving-kindness and compassion.
(Read more about Tibetan Monk Palden Gyatso here: https://www.wiseattention.org/blog/2012/04/01/palden-gyatso/)
The first moment I heard the chant Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu I fell completely in love and committed my life fully to this intention. In English, it means,
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts words and actions of my own life contribute to that happiness and that freedom for all.”
I dedicated my life to this beautifully profound intention and it has changed the course of my life.
When I lived in Johannesburg, many years ago, before I started Yoga, I used to have the worst road rage. I used to drive around the city in anger, frustration and swearing at people most of the time. This, in turn, brought up so much stress and anxiety whilst driving, that I would arrive at my destination in a foul mood, angry, irritated and mean. Then I learned this chant and the remarkable Blessing Meditation from my Jivamukti teachers and my entire perspective changed. Instead of driving around angry and pissed off, I CHOSE to be kind and compassionate, I CHOSE to contribute to others happiness and freedom, I CHOSE to send blessings to every being instead of spewing curses at them. In doing this my whole life shifted. My teacher, Sharon Gannon, says “Magic is a shift in perspective” and that saying could not have been more true.
Now, my experiences on the road were amazing. I was waving at people, smiling at people, sending them love and thanks. I was allowing people to go in front of me, I was being courteous and kind. And the response was magnificent. Instead of people hooting back at me and sending me angry energy, I had people smiling and laughing with me, I had other beings thanking me and most importantly I would arrive at my destination happy, content and in a wonderful mood. It was such a powerful shift that I included this CHOICE of kindness and compassion in EVERY THOUGHT, WORD AND ACTION of my life.
You may have experienced emotional, hurtful and traumatising break-ups in your life, similar to some of my experiences...Not only from romantic partners but also from friends. Some of these have been my “best friends”. These break-ups have affected my life way more than any previous romantic break-ups. One of the reasons I moved to Cape Town nearly 6 years ago was because two of my very best friends in the world had moved down here and I wanted to be close to them. We were so close, in fact, that my first home here was shared with one of these best friends and her husband. We lived together, worked together, cooked together and hung out together. I was able to see my other best friend and her husband every weekend as well. It was heaven. I was so happy and content being with my closest and most dear people.
Then all of a sudden it wasn’t so perfect anymore. After a year of living together, we found separate houses and started drifting apart. The first thing I started to notice was both these best friends stopped sharing their news with me. They stopped calling and stopped messaging me. I felt like I was doing all the work to hold up the relationships. Subsequently, I saw on social media that these two best friends of mine were spending time together, without me. My heart was absolutely shattered and I started to get angry and so resentful. I reached out to them and tried to understand what was going on but neither of them would communicate with me. I felt abandoned, worthless and furious. I spent a lot of time talking with my therapist and processing my emotions by letting them go through crying. In a moment of healing and clarity, I remembered the Blessings Meditation and it was this compassion towards them that lifted me out of the trauma. I spent hours using this meditation to send these beings thankfulness, blessings and Love. For the time we were so involved in each other’s lives, they were great teachers to me and I would not have learned the lessons I needed to learn in this life without them and all the experiences we had together. This magnifying of compassion brought about deep forgiveness and healing. These beings were doing the best they could at that moment by following their own paths and lessons. I am now so grateful for each and every experience I had with them both. They helped to teach me how powerful compassion and forgiveness are, how important boundaries are, how beneficial good self-esteem is and how unconditional self-love and self-acceptance are the most valuable characteristics you can possibly cultivate. I wish these beings nothing but thankfulness, blessings and Love, and I hope that their hearts and lives are full of Love and kindness.
Choosing to use kindness and compassion to work through trauma and to help me heal, choosing to live my daily life immersed in these powerful practices is the most powerful act I have taken in my life. It has developed my empathy, my unconditional Love and my acceptance of others so much. It has enriched my life beyond words and feelings. It is the most important aspect of my life and something I practice every single day.
I have a few versions of this magnificent chant on the Vula Yoga Spotify account. Have a listen, join in, if you’d like, to feel the power of connecting deeply with others.
I hope today and every day you are happy and free and I hope that any experience we have with each other will contribute to your happiness and freedom. Sending all my Love directly to your heart.
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