Cat From The Mat

Hello, Dalai!

This month, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama paid New Orleans a visit.  He addressed our general issues of violence by claiming that more education and affection starting in childhood breeds compassion.   A question he posed however has stuck with me: When in conflict, what if YOUR SURVIVAL was dependent on understanding the other person's perspective?  

As a yogin, I practice being subjective and objective at the same time.   I am not always successful in this endeavor, but I try.  I often play with sitting in my individual "seat" while witnessing myself in that seat, being both an insider and outsider.   The yoga invites all of us to marinate in more than one perspective.  However, if one's existence depends implicitly on appreciating the other person's "seat"…well, that's a different conversation in which to enter.  It's not a debate of who is right and wrong.  It's a dialogue that provides incentive to truly consider an unfamiliar point of view, not as your own but as equally valid.

One definition of compassion is "sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others."  Its Latin root word "compati" means to suffer with.  However, I do not view compassion as feeling sorry for another.  To me, that can imply judgment, of being "better than."   But acknowledging what fuels another's passion is how we arrive at com-passion…"com” being inclusive of all positions, sharing all sides to a story.

I am not talking about the blind or overly tolerant compassion involved in spiritual bypassing. I suggest in no way that we excuse hurtful behaviors or let people off the hook by claiming the "compassion" card.   Concurring with another's opinion is different than understanding it.  You can see how someone might feel a certain way without agreeing with him/her.  What if your own evolution as a person depends on recognizing another's outlook?  This requires empathy.  Incorporating opposing perspectives is easier said than done.  In fact, there is nothing passive about this practice. 

I was encouraged to hear the Dalai Lama's words that peace comes through taking action, rather than looking the other way.  Words are great but actions speak volumes.  Yoga is putting your aligned heart and head into skillful action, on the mat with asana, and off the mat within your community.   

Your body is a similar collective. It's one system that is made up of many parts working together for the whole organism's survival.  When one part is having conflict, other parts take action.   When you break your leg, the other limbs help redistribute the weight.  They may not agree with the task at hand, but there is a common desire to keep balance.  The more you understand how your own body works, the more compassion you cultivate within.  The more empathy you generate at home, the more apt you are at exercising that allowance towards others.  How you inhabit your own seat without being stuck in only one outlook, determines your view of reality.  

Conflict is real.  So how can you do it well, to avoid an escalation into violence?  To evolve as humans or as a community takes effort.   Making space for all perspectives is however the first active step.  Life can then be an entertaining adventure, where the rub of conflict becomes welcomed friction needed for growth.  Conflictive compassion, capisce?


Cat From The Mat

June 2013