Would you laugh at a child up on stage performing her heart out, even if her voice was off key? Or, would you offer her love, support and compassion for the courage it took to show herself in front of an audience?
So often as we grow, we stop sending compassion to others and to ourselves for the risks we take and the times that we are less than perfect. We become alienated and judge, rather than accept that whatever happens is a part of the process of life and of growth.
As it usually does, my Sunday morning yoga class offered me an opportunity to practice an important principle like this both in my life and on my mat. Last week, the class was focused on hip-openers, an area of challenge to me given my own particular anatomy and life challenges. These are the poses that I know that I SHOULD do more of, but intrinsically avoid because they are uncomfortable.
In celebration of the birthday of Pema Chödrön (Buddhist nun, inspiring author and advocate for compassion), my yoga teacher offered a simple practice which shifted my relationship to the long dreaded poses that stretch open the hip joint. What if, my teacher taught, we honored ourselves for the courage it takes to face the uncomfortable by sending love and compassion to the places we feel constricted?
A radical concept! As I positioned myself into my former nemesis, Pigeon pose, I focused my attention and breathe on sending love to the constricted areas in my hips. I love you … oh how I love you … yes I DO really love you, I chanted to my hips.
To my amazement, my hip bones floated toward the floor with ease, as tight muscles released and my heart opened. I left the class blazing with light.
All last week, I took that practice with me to each class and to each uncomfortable situation that arose. I had a little love affair with myself, and am filled with gratitude for all that manifested in my life as a result.
Regardless of what goes on in the world around us – and these are very challenging times with such vivid examples of separation and aggression – we have the ability to create our own experience. By sending love and compassion to the dark and restricted places in our world, we can ensure that by our actions we are shifting energy to a more positive, light-filled place.
Matching darkness with darkness only feeds it. It takes strength and courage to release the impulse to react to or control the actions of others, and to instead focus on building our own light to shine as an example to others.
Ultimately, it comes down to a simple choice – when faced with challenge, how will you create your experience? It could take the form of choosing self-love during an intense yoga pose, or offering compassion in the face of aggression from others. Both are acts of courage.
As for me, I choose to honor the little girl who once sang “how do you spell HIP-p-o-p-o-t-a-m-u-s?” on stage and off-key. I´m taking her out on the dance floor more often to swing her hips. Her pink tutu may be gone, but her joy and courage live on.