Many of us are deeply concerned about the recent violence in Charlottesville and the potential for more such divisive conflicts in the future. The residents wanted to identify a Yoga teaching that would inspire us to actively embody our values as we move through our community. We chose Compassionate Action as a practice for the month of September.
Yoga teaches us that underneath all the names and forms in creation, including our human bodies and minds, is an unchanging Spirit or Consciousness. Our inability to experience that subtle level of interconnection results in identification with our gross individual selves. We draw a psychic line between ourselves and others that may seem very real to us, but is created by our limited minds that perceive only the gross levels of reality.
An effective Yoga practice, done regularly, reveals that unchanging Spiritual Presence within, and gradually erases these boundaries we’ve drawn, exposing our oneness with the world around us. In this way, a spiritual practice lays the foundation for a natural compassion to arise as we begin to experience our deepest selves.
But we don’t need to wait for this natural awakening of compassion to believe that all peoples are equally deserving of our respect, and to actively practice interacting with that intention in our hearts. The very first of the classical eight limbs of Yoga prompts us to bring no harm to anyone, in any form.
Compassionate action goes beyond simply refraining from harming others. It implies that we make a genuine effort to treat others with kindness, regardless of their appearance or personality, and it can take many forms. It can mean speaking up in public when we witness some form of discrimination or participating in a protest against some policy that we feel is unjust. It can mean actively soliciting the participation of people of color on a committee or praying for marginalized populations who are suffering far away from us.
I believe that an effort to embrace this practice makes a real contribution to the collective consciousness of our world. The harmony we want to see in the world begins with today’s conversation. When we bring even a little more compassion into our interactions, we make our communities and planet a more peaceful place.