Do you feel compassion and judgement towards those in distress?
Do you beat yourself up relentlessly when you make a mistake?
Does the homeless guy down the street make you uncomfortable?
Karuna or compassion in Yoga is one of the Parikarmas, or 4 ways to to purify the mind.
All of us have tendency towards judgement and being overly critical. It’s ok. It’s normal. We’re human. But it doesn’t feel that great to be judgmental. And if you’re like me, you’d like to begin to develop a little more compassion towards those who are in distress. Which is ourselves at times!
So who really needs our compassion the most? Those in distress or those who we view as weak.
Let’s look at this first in our interactions with others (externally) and then turn inwards and examine how we can show compassion to ourselves.
Compassion: sympathy, care, concern, sensitivity, warmth, tenderness, kindness, mercy, goodwill
This type of compassion (Karuna) extends outwards towards people who are in distress or weaker than you.
There is a tendency to view people who are struggling through the eyes of “justice.” Many believe that those struggling with homelessness, addiction or poverty are in that condition because they deserve it.
And I will not lie, this is easy to believe when you yourself have fought tooth and nail to obtain a comfortable life. It is also easy to begin to not even view these people as people anymore when it harms that comfortable life.
Dealing with an addict in your very own family can numb you. You have been through the ringer with them so many that your heart cannot take anymore. How many times are you going to get your hopes up that “this time will be different”? Another example is the continuous barrage of pleas for handouts from the homeless guy down the street. All the while you’re taking your tired ass to work. That can get old.
Thoughts like “Why don’t they go get a job like I did.” Or “They should work harder to get out of their bad situation.”
But alas, we do not know it all. We’re not God. Or perfect. Or know how any of these souls came to be in the place they’re in.
There are cultural, generational, and biological forces in the human race that act as strong undercurrents. Pulling those in the wake further and further under water. Yes they fight it. Yes they have hopes and dreams like the rest of us. But as anyone who has ever been pulled violently underwater knows, sometimes there’s no fight strong enough to make it out.
But miraculously some do make it out. Of course, there are those examples. But those examples do not give anyone leeway to say “See so and so made it out of their bad situation, so why can’t you.”
That is a very pretentious and ignorant statement.
We were probably given luxuries in life that we don’t even consider “luxuries” that helped keep you 1 step ahead of others. The color of your skin is a luxury. Your last name or gender is a luxury. A loving parent, even if it’s just one is a luxury.
You see there are lots of luxuries that many of us were awarded, that others simply never had. It would do us all well to step down off of our soap box and humbly acknowledge those luxuries.
And even if you have an example of someone who had “All the luxuries in the world and still pissed away their life,” So what. What’s that got to do with you? None of that is any of our business. Let’s all stay in our own lane.
And if you can’t get on board with any of the above arguments, then at the very least let’s practice Karuna to protect ourselves.
Safeguarding our thinking and protecting our energy is of utmost importance, for this life and the next. No matter what your opinion is of that homeless guy down the street, I’d bet you’re still torn between righteous piety and guilt for feeling that way.
So you might as well lean towards compassion.
Or at the very least neutrality. Because that guilt weighs on the soul. And feeling torn between judgement and compassion eats away at your morality, leaving you frozen in indecision.
And while we’re in the generous mood of suspending judgement towards that homeless guy, let’s all work towards suspending judgement towards our own destitute soul as well!
Because we are just as hard on ourselves, or even harder, than we’ll ever be on others.
We’re not perfect. And we know it. So, we beat ourselves up. There are moments of weakness and failure. So many of us feel unworthy and unlovable. That’s not true, but it’s definitely tough to fight once the belief sets in.
So let’s make a pact here and now. If you are trying in life to be a decent person, then give yourself a break!
Extend compassionate care to yourself especially when you’re in distress or feel weak. Like that homeless guy, you’re not in the position you’re in because “you deserve it.”
You’re not infertile because of something you did wrong in the past. Your mom didn’t die because God doesn’t love you.
You DIDN’T DESERVE ANY OF THOSE BAD THINGS.
It all “is what it is.” Honestly. I know that statement isn’t enough. But what are we going to do? We all just pick ourselves up….and move on.
And you’re still here. That’s the important thing. because since you’re still here and trying, the entire universe will gather its forces behind you to support you.
So be tenacious in your mercy and tenderness.