In June, we chose cultivating an attitude of acceptance toward the difficult aspects of life that we encounter. For this month, we’ve been discussing a more proactive way of relating to the world we live in. We decided to practice living as a presence of peace and compassion by remembering our essential oneness.
Embracing this intention may not change the outer form of our daily activities. But everyday choices take on new relevance when we contemplate how each action and every focused thought has a ripple effect on subtler levels and tangibly contributes to the collective consciousness of our planet.
Yoga teaches us that only if we identify ourselves solely as a body and mind do we see separation. Underlying those superficial aspects is a spiritual consciousness in which we are profoundly connected. Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “When we realize our nature of interbeing, we will stop blaming and killing, because we know that we inter-are.”
It can be a striking practice to try to notice the ways we perceive others based on their appearance, or judge them from some small behavior we witness. I suggest taking a “compassion walk,” during which you see everyone, regardless of their actions, as doing the best they can in that moment. Even when someone’s behavior is harmful, try assuming they are struggling, just as you struggle in your own ways. Try practicing compassion by sending a silent prayer for them to suffer less, and to learn and grow from their mistakes.
We have numerous opportunities every day to be considerate and generous, to listen and understand others, to give without expecting something. We might practice peacemaking by standing up in public against discrimination or injustice or, more often, simply by offering a smile or a kind word. If we can open our hearts to even a few people we encounter, we begin to live as a light for peace, one step at a time.
Serving in such ways becomes natural when we reflect on how blessed we are and how important it is to make good use of all we have. Actions performed with genuine care for others are also healing for our hearts, and we find joy in giving rather than looking for a reward or outcome. This is how we really bring our Yoga practice to life.
Even our personal Yoga practice becomes a service when we take care of our bodies and minds for the purpose of being useful. When we can keep alive even a small flame of peace and equanimity in ourselves, we will have already contributed to world peace. Sri Swami Satchidananda affirmed to us many times the powerful effect of ending our practice by sending prayers for healing and peace out into the world.
Establishing peace in ourselves is the only way we can expect to have the clarity to then express it in our daily lives, especially during the difficult interactions that need it the most. Our ability to embody nonviolence and compassion will bring those values more powerfully into the world than any speech we can make. There is nothing more important for us to do, and nothing more fulfilling.