Kindness in an Unkind World
It's not always easy to be kind. It sounds nice, but have you experienced a moment when someone made you so angry you wanted to react in an unkind way? OR, have you practiced kindness and had people turn on you for no apparent reason? OR, have you tried to stand up for what is right in a situation (which is also practicing kindness), and had the door slammed in your face? Life is not all hearts and flowers and rainbows for most of us. I personally have had a difficult life. I've had to overcome a lot of hurdles. I know what it's like to experience trauma, poverty, grief, heartache and unkindness. One thing yoga has taught me is that everything in life has purpose - even the really crappy stuff. Because of my illnesses and chronic pain - I know what it's like to experience pain 24/7. Because of my experience living in poverty - I know what it's like to fall on hard times, to live out of your car and to be treated and looked at like you are worthless. And yet, I persist. Why? Because yoga has given me the tools to understand everything is temporary, and that I am (and we all are) connected to a Higher Source. Yoga has helped me to cultivate "the Witness". I can see things objectively. I can forgive people for their inhumanity and I can forgive myself for being imperfect. It's okay to be angry. I have to say that - especially in a society that looks down on women being angry, people of color being angry and if you're a woman and a person of color, our culture really suppresses your ability to express anger, even though you have more reasons than all of us to be angry. So, let me reiterate that: "It's OKAY to be angry!" What we do with our anger is key. How is it possible to be kind when people can be mean and hateful and life can seem meaningless at times? Sometimes it's hard...but in the long run, it takes less energy. Sometimes it feels easier to be angry, to yell or act on our anger in the immediate moment. But often, you won't feel good about yourself afterwards, and eventually it will cause illness and separation. That takes more energy to deal with in the long run. Being able to take a few breaths and step back before you react to a situation, may help you react in a more productive way and in a way that does not have lasting consequences for you in this life or any other. In this way, we can channel the anger to make positive change, or at the very least, express our anger in a more positive way so that it doesn't harbor inside of us and cause illness. However, we if and when do react out of anger, and lose our temper, it is also important to forgive ourselves and ask forgiveness from those we may have hurt. One of my teachers in the IYT program, who works in an addiction recovery facility, taught us a beautiful meditation. I'm adapting his meditation here: Find a comfortable seat with a long spine where you can breathe comfortably. Place your right hand over your heart. Place your left hand over your right hand. Take several breaths here and notice any sensation, constriction, tightness, pain....Allow the breath to become deeper. Inhale into your heart space, and, as you exhale imagine releasing - letting go. Do this several times. Then bring to mind someone who has hurt you deeply. Bring a clear image of this person in your mind. Notice any sensation in your body, or how your body responds to this image. Now, in your heart repeat, "I forgive you. Please forgive me. I forgive myself." Breathe in forgiveness. Breathe out kindness. Repeat several times. Let it go. Love yourself. You deserve it. Namaste.