Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Goodness and Compassion

I have been thinking a lot about compassion these days. Not like it is a new concept or anything. It isn't. But it has come to my attention through some inner and outer circumstances that I am not exactly super compassionate with myself and it has been suggested to me, by more than one wise person as of late, that this might be a good thing for me to cultivate in myself. (Yes, I did write a book basically about this, which well, makes it even more poignant, no?)

True Story: At the intensive with Paul Muller Ortega in Tucson, Arizona a few weeks ago, I asked him a question about how one might make the distinction between when outer change is called for and when the optimal change is more of an "inside job"- like a change of attitude, perception, etc. He said several very interesting things. The first thing he told me is that we need to let go of the idea that there is only one way to walk the path of yoga. We have to let go of the idea that there is a "right way" to do it.

Now as a side note, I had maybe spent a total of 5 minutes-tops- in conversation with Paul in my lifetime. I had sat in the back of the room, listening to his lectures throughout the weekend and I asked this question on Sunday. So, not only was the answer great, but I was pretty impressed that in only a few seconds he had nailed my entire life script, read me like a book, seen through me like a window pane, so to speak. To me, if we need ANY inspiration about why we should meditate, that is it. After 40 years of contemplative practices in the presence of great gurus, he was able to skip over the question I was asking out loud and answer the real question I was grappling with. Very impressive. But I digress.

And he did throw me a bone at that point saying that the longer we walk the path and especially if we are sincere, getting off this "right and wrong" idea gets harder because we sincerely do want to behave dharmically and to engage the principles skillfully. (But that is different than being driven from the psychological script, I suppose. He didn't say that exactly but I am thinking about that distinction a lot. We may actually behave in the same way but for two different motivations. Anyhoo..)

The next thing he told me was this: "You know, the Great Supreme Consciousness is gazing upon us with the Highest Compassion. It might be helpful to cultivate that same attitude toward yourself." (MIGHT BE HELPFUL??? Ya think?!!)

The next thing he said is that it is also helpful to cultivate patience toward oneself and toward the process. Sometimes, he told me, the head knows and the heart is not ready to see. Sometimes, the heart knows, but the head is not ready. He said, very simply, that we cannot rush the process of lining those aspects of ourselves up.

I think he may have said a few more things but those are the three main points he made. Those of you who know me can see, that he addressed the three main streams of my psychology in under 5 minutes. Now that is skillful means as a teacher. So impressive.

So, as I have been thinking about compassion toward myself it seems to me that it must be rooted in the assertion of Intrinsic Goodness- in that deep essential goodness that is not at the mercy of psychological strategy, human preferences and aversions, and even our good and bad behavior. One must somehow enter into a relationship with the disparity between the stainless purity of the Self and the very fallible nature of his or her humanity. And when we see and feel that disparity in ourselves without judgement, without it being an invitation toward self-hatred, then compassion begins to arise. I think it is a tall order for many of us.

So anyway- I worked in my classes last night with establishing a foundation of goodness and rising up in compassion. (root to rise) We took that into shoulder principles and ustrasana in the Hatha Class and into a pretty darn fun arm balance flow in the Advanced Class. Lots of new folks were in class last night, a lot of old friends who have gone missing and then a nice group of regulars were there also. That is always what is so fun about this time of year, right?

Just a reminder that THursday we are not ahvcing advnaced class at 4:30 but we ARE having an advanced practice from 4-6 at The Love Shack. Also at 7:30 that night Craig is beginning his series on the Gita at YogaYoga South which is not to be missed. Come to practice, clean up, get some food and then end your day with a talk about Remembering the Highest. I mean, really, does it get any better than that?

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