Let’s Make Every Day Valentine’s Day
Metta means loving-kindness in Pali. Developing metta is a practice that teaches us to live from a place of loving awareness.
My teachers have taught me that compassion arises simultaneously as wisdom grows. Yoga teaches us to pay attention. By paying attention, over time, we become more aware of the nature of life and our own humanity. Eventually, we learn to see into the causes of suffering or dukka, a Pali word often translated as “suffering,” “pain,” or “un-satisfactoriness.” As the Buddha taught, the cause of dukka is craving. Yoga practice teaches us to see that when we are craving, we are in a mind-state of wanting things to be different than they actually are right now, and ultimately, we are resisting life. This resistance breeds tension in the body as we contract around a particular viewpoint and disturbs our state of mind as we place ourselves in conflict with reality.
Zen teachers are keen to point out that whenever we separate ourselves from our experience, we are setting ourselves up for disappoint and conflict. If we focus on being separate from the world around us, we will inevitably find fault with our environment. From this point, it’s easy to get caught in endless cycles of judging ourselves and extending this same behavior to our interactions with others and our life situations, constantly stuck in the story of evaluating, comparing, analyzing and judging. This culminates in the behavior of constantly placing ourselves at odds with the way life really is right now. It’s easy to live in a mild state of perpetual judgment in which we are rarely satisfied with ourselves or others. If we mistakenly believe we are not good enough, then we must go searching outside ourselves for our happiness. But if happiness is outside ourselves and we need to go searching for it, then conditions and circumstances outside our control will always have power over us. We are caught in a cycle of dukka.
If on the other hand, the capacity for love, joy and happiness is something that we all have intrinsically, then we simply need to become aware of the behavior that we are doing that inhibits this happiness from manifesting. The Buddha states in the Third Noble Truth that the cause of dukka is craving, so if we learn to stop craving, we will minimize dukka. So by realizing that happiness is based on training our minds to stop turning things around, it becomes within reach for all of us. It sounds like semantics, but it is a profound difference.
If we are the cause of our own difficulties, we are also the solution. We cannot change things outside our control, but we can learn to become more skillful in our responses. If we all have the innate ability to be content and joyful, then we just need to stop doing the things that take us out of this state of being. From this perspective, we have the power to plant the seeds of our own joy or plant the seeds of our own suffering. As we begin to see that letting go of the self-defeating habits of mind is how yoga really works, we come to intimately know ourselves and our humanity. We start to appreciate the challenge of learning to flow with our emotions. We fall on our mat, and we get back up, offering compassion to ourselves instead of judgment. We meet a difficult moment with a loved one with more ease because we have learned to relate to our emotions more skillfully.
We begin to practice compassion and empathy not because we have heard that it’s important to be kind, or to have nice manners, but also because we really understand that it makes sense to be loving and kind. We have felt our own suffering, our own joy, our own journey of being a human being, and through our practice we have developed this knowing and feeling into real understanding. By connecting with ourselves during our practice time, we can connect more authentically with each other and see that we are all equal and we all share the same light.
The practices of mindfulness in yoga and meditation help us develop the wisdom to watch the conditioning of our mind with skill. As we come to more clearly see ourselves and the human condition, we begin to see the collective confusion of humanity and the suffering this causes. As our perspective becomes less clouded by distraction and ignorance, compassion becomes the only logical response to all the challenges and suffering we see around us. Rather than our mind leading the way, the practices of yoga and mindfulness have taught us to lead with our heart. And by following the path of the heart, we are able to see the logic of kindness in action as we witness it’s power for transforming impossible situations into amazing opportunities for connection and learning.
Wisdom and compassion are two wings of the same bird, so as one begins to lift and soar, the other also arises with it. As wisdom and compassion develop together, we give flight to more freedom in our hearts and minds. From all of us at Jai Rhythm, we wish you an open heart and the inspiration to share your compassion and love with the world every day, and especially this Valentine’s Day!