MeditationLast week, I focused on the Sutra that calls us to avoid future suffering, and there were numerous reflections from students about compassion’s place within the Yoga Sutras.

The Sutras are a meditation manual of sorts, and there are not many sutras referring to compassion, though there are a few that are certainly pertinent. Sutra II-33 addresses our yoga practice within the context of relationships, and in part speaks of offering compassion towards the suffering, so that we may achieve inner tranquility.

While each of us may indeed either perceive ourselves as presently compassionate, or at least aspiring towards that state, when we look more deeply into the practice of being compassionate many hardships can prevent us from finding our way to its true expression. Compassion in its very etymology suggests that we identify with the one who suffers, and are aware of our own likeness to that person; compassion becomes an embodied, intuitive arriving in full presence with the one who suffers. This may be really different than what we have done in the name of compassion, in giving recommendations, offering advice, and staying separate on some level from the one who is right before us in pain. Active ways of showing compassion can of course be most needed and welcome, but there is also a quality of presence that can be the most powerful expression of compassion.

I listened to a Zen teacher, Harada Roshi in teachings he offered over last week-end at One Drop Monastery on Whidbey Island. His teachings, focusing on compassion, suggested that the open hearted presence that allows us to find true and deep compassion emerge from practice. In yoga, the direction of practice is towards an experience of communion where we know our inviolable and true connection with all of the life around us. The more I know this in my body and being, the more I can offer the one who suffers not ONLY my concrete acts of help in the forms of recommendations, advice, food preparation and so forth, but also my true deep presence.

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