Sometimes (a lot of the time) in true yin-yang style, I try to understand something through understanding its ‘opposite’.
I like to use simple analogies – we understand fast because we know what slow feels like, we know dark because we experience light. And we understand relativities – a racing car driver’s fast is going to be quite different to a ‘Driving Miss Daisy’s’. We also know that some things (perhaps most things) don’t stand comparison – is a sunrise more beautiful than a sunset – moot point! (see random sunrise and sunset shots below, ahhh).
So it is with cold and hot – we think it’s cold in Queensland as elsewhere in Australia (with the exception of Northern Territory and much of Western Australia) scoffs (and freezes). But hey, you probably have central heating. In Fiji they shivered a little in the warm winter sun (or at least on balmy evenings).
So when I think of compassion, I consider its antonym (according to good old Roget) and find the world ‘coldness’.
I feel a chill up my spine (like I’ve had an encounter with evil).
I certainly don’t’ want to be the opposite of compassionate, so the question is, how do I show more compassion?
Brought up Catholic I was
trained indoctrinated to think of compassion in grand gestures – in selfless giving, sacrifice, even saintliness. The church would run an annual Lenten Project Compassion, so it was associated with setting up orphanages and providing water, power, education and sanitation. It had to be some kind of big project, day-to-day kindness simply wouldn’t suffice (or so it seemed).
While I try to be giving and we support select charities and projects (plug Rafiki Mwema), I know that I don’t give enough of my time (what time I have to give, I guess).
I laugh at the saying that we ‘make time’ as though it can be manufactured, and I marvel at people who seem to find time immeasurable. Like the family friend who died recently, aged just 35. She was born with significant physical limitations and had ongoing health problems, yet she devoted so much of her short life to volunteer activities. She was an inspiration with her courage, independence and generosity of time and spirit. I feel humbled.
I feel shocked and incredibly sad at the tragic loss of a close work colleague, also in her mid-thirties, who leaves a husband and two children under 5. My heart breaks for them. Time is scarce again and infinitely precious. I feel scared.
It’s been a shit week or so!!!
Then there’s the tragedy of the Nice terror attack, mass loss of life in Turkey and the sad yet inevitable cycle of life and death – how can compassion really make a difference in the midst of such suffering.
So I come back to warmth – how can we spread more of it amongst grand acts of generosity, selfless deeds of sympathy and bravery and simple acts of kindness?
We can open our hearts, and so literally radiate the warmth and light of love.
Just because we can’t save the world, doesn’t mean we can’t make it better.
According to the Heart Math Institute Director of Research Rollin McCraty, the heart is a powerful source of energy, more powerful that the brain.
“The heart generates the largest electromagnetic field in the body. The electrical field as measured in an electrocardiogram (ECG) is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the brain waves recorded in an electroencephalogram (EEG).”
Leap of Faith
Place a bolster cushion across your mat and lie over the top of it, so that your thoracic spine at the ‘bra strap’ line is lying over the bolster. Keep your legs long and allow your shoulders and neck to soften over the back of the bolster, bringing your arms out to the side in a crucifix position. If you have the shoulder range, the arms can be extended overhead. Use blocks to support the shoulder/arm opening if required. (If you don’t have a bolster cushion a tightly rolled up thick blanket will do).
Hold the position for 5-7 minutes, noticing the softening of the shoulder blades into the bolster, expansion of the rib cage, deeper breathing in the chest and an opening in the armpits.
The posture supports a strong opening of the heart chakra (Anahata) and an opening of the throat chakra (Vishudda). It ‘cracks open’ the back of the heart between the shoulder blades, a deep place where we can store past pain and feel like we have ‘the weight of the world on our shoulders’.
Named for the heart chakra, this posture is a literal melting of the heart forward. It is an expression of openness and vulnerability– a bowing forward to the power of love.
A strong backbend, it acts to massage out stress pumped out by the adrenals at the base of the spine in the form of adrenaline, norepinephrine and particularly cortisol, which we continue to produce when we stew on our problems.
Kneeling up with the knees at hip width distance apart, slide the torso forward as you scooped out a concave in the back, bringing the chest and chin to the mat with arms outstretched in front of you and the sit bones (bottom) in the air. If required, place a bolster cushion under the forearms and allow the chin to rest on it to support softening into the posture.
Hold the posture for approximately 3-4 minutes.
In my last post I wrote about connection by focusing on what divides us, concluding that I’d simple settle for tolerance – not too much to ask for!
But we must move beyond tolerance, to acceptance, to friendliness, to warmth.
And from warmth we can move to empathy, concern, care, kindness, love and genuine compassion.
Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.