The projection of friendliness, compassion, gladness, and equanimity towards objects – be they joyful, sorrowful, meritorious, or demeritorious – bring about the pacification of consciousness.
–Yoga Sutra 1:33
Yoga is, traditionally, a solitary practice. A child’s time on a mat provides great potential for transformation, for awakening, and for growth. They learn how to breathe and center while in a balance pose, building their ability to concentrate and focus. Holding Chair pose for several breaths is tough, but they learn how to soften around and embrace the challenge, building confidence and grit. And children learn to settle their racing minds during meditation, building an inner-reservoir of calm. But, often, it is their time between yoga sessions that tests the strength of their practice. It is when they are interacting with the world, from strangers on TV to their closest relationships, that they can truly practice yoga.
According to Patanjali, in one of the first descriptions of yoga called The Yoga Sutras, cultivating compassion is part of the journey toward the “pacification of consciousness”. It’s hard to find calm if you don’t also seek compassion – for yourself, for others and for all beings in the universe. And Patanjali is hardly alone in his direction to live with compassion. According to 1 John 3:23, Jesus says, “Love one another”. The Dalai Lama is regarded as a reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion. In Japan, this Buddha is named Kannon, translated to “she who hears the cries of the world”.
Children are definitely hearing “the cries of the world” right now, aren’t they? Their yoga practice helps them figure out how to respond to these cries. The word compassion is from the Latin prefix com– and the Latin word pati. Put them together and compassion means “to suffer with”. We have been mandated to express compassion to, and share in the suffering of, everyone, all the time. And, according to Patanjali, in doing so we will be purified and rest in the “pacification of consciousness”, which is the ultimate purpose of a yoga practice. Ignoring or avoiding the struggle doesn’t bring peace. Fighting against the feelings of worry, sorrow, or frustration doesn’t pacify the mind, either. It is only through compassion and sharing in the strife through empathy that we can find an inner peace.
We invite you and your family to take some time and practice cultivating compassion.
Strengthen your compassion “muscles” by listing all the ways you behaved compassionately each evening before bed. You can also share examples of acts of compassion that other people showed you throughout the day. How did you feel when you acted compassionately? How did you feel when someone showed you compassion?
Notice how often during the day you judge yourself. When a judgmental thought pops up, purposefully replace it with a compassionate thought (like “I’m doing my best right now”).
Show compassion to your friends, family, and strangers by keeping their health, safety and mental well-being in mind. Showing compassion can look and sound different depending on the situation. How can you be compassionate when walking through a grocery store? When on a Zoom call? At dinner? If you are watching the news, can you show compassion to the people you see on the screen?
Actively practicing compassion isn’t easy. You may feel like you are giving up some comfort or happiness. It may feel like what you are doing is an unfair burden. Do it anyway. Share in the suffering of others so we can all grow together. Love one another by keeping each other safe. Hear the cries and respond with compassion.
Like what you read here? There’s so much MORE to explore and learn with Kidding Around Yoga. Check out our website for our live and online teacher trainings, Yoga Alliance-approved 95-hour RCYT trainings, specialty online courses, original music, merchandise, podcast, and beyond! KAY even offers a 6-hour workshop designed to teach school educators and homeschool families how to bring yoga and meditation right into their classrooms (EduKAY) and an online course specifically for families to incorporate these practices in their family’s routine (Mindful Parenting)