compassion

slow boat

Yesterday I experienced an unexpected gift. I was catching the Manly Fast Ferry into the city and had paid my fare and was queuing to board the vessel. Things were at a stand still and the crew weren’t letting anyone board. Folks waiting in the queue started to get a bit restless as the minutes ticked by and still no movement. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one my favourite dock crew motioning me towards him. I reversed through the line of passengers to connect with him. He let me know the ferry was experiencing engine trouble and probably wouldn’t be leaving the dock anytime soon. He also said if I very quickly scooted over to the next dock I could catch the Big Ferry into the city and would only be delayed by 15 minutes.

On a typical day this would be a kind and thoughtful gift. But on this day it was a perfectly timed miracle since I was heading into the city for an interview and any further delay would have made my first impression one of unorganised lateness! Thrilled to switch docks I was quickly on my way when John shouted behind me “And since you’ve already paid I’ll make sure to give you a few free trips!”

JOY is definitely the headline when things unfold with such synchronicity in life. Stay open and connected to the people around you . . . you never know when they might just deliver a miracle.

creating space

My yoga teacher was sharing the notion of ‘self interest’ and how we all seem to be striving for something, working to accomplish goals, perhaps even purchasing something that has importance to us. It struck me that while these traits are all very human and necessary, they reflect a tunnelled focus towards ones self. Conversely, the world seem to be calling out for more and more compassion directed its way. Wherever we look, if we slow down long enough to truly see, we can find people in need. Some have lost everything in a natural disaster and others might just be struggling to find a bit of joy in their day.

So what can we do to lift our gaze and shift our focus from self to others? I believe yoga can play a role. When we are in the mode of striving, accomplishments and pushing to get ahead we seem to be holding onto things rather tightly. Both in our minds and our bodies. As we practice yoga and move through the asanas on the mat we are stretching muscles and spine, literally creating more space in the body. And perhaps this newly found space can move towards the heart, making just a little bit more room. And who knows . . . maybe that heart space can be filled with compassion towards others.

There will always be time to fulfil our own small self interests, but sometimes the urgency lies in extending ourselves and offering something we have – even a smile – to others.

If you believe in a JOYful world maybe create a little space for compassion today.

compassion beats fear

An incredibly joyful friend recently shared that she’s been diagnosed with an incurable, degenerative disease. And as she shared her news, I made that face. The one that speaks of pain, disbelief, injustice and fear. As soon as she saw my face she said “don’t do that to me . . . don’t feel sorry for me!” At the time I thought it was the most courageous and intelligent reaction I’ve ever witnessed. How quickly are we to place our fear and outrage onto others when they share these unfair twists of fate? Instead, perhaps we need to listen for and ask what they need from us after trusting us with their own deep confidences.

This recent chapter was echoed while reading an incredible book by Stephen Levine who eloquently shares:

“Pity arises from meeting pain with fear. Compassion comes when you meet it with love.”

This is such a noble and powerful approach to pain. I wonder how often we can meet our own pain or that of others with pure love? It feels like an incredibly daunting challenge, and yet to consider the ramifications of pity and fear . . . perhaps its enough inspiration to try a new approach.

life path versus purpose

Growing up within the decades of a hyper aware Oprah influenced culture, its impossible not to contemplate why we are here and what is our specific life purpose. Bookshelves are filled with experts willing to share their techniques in helping you fulfil your destiny and articulate your purpose. Its a daunting question for most and can often lead to negative thought patterns of not contributing to a noble enough cause. An unfulfilled dream or lack of purpose can be a dangerous backdrop to life. I’ve been through a few of these fleeting stages in my own life. Finding myself navel gazing and contemplating my role in the Universe – challenging myself to do something with real meaning and purpose versus pursuing the career that has brought me great levels of professional success and varying levels of fulfilment.

But recently there’s a growing sense of personal discontent and even slight annoyance with the notion of identifying my purpose in life. Instead, perhaps the WHAT we chose to pursue is infinitely less important than the HOW we conduct ourselves no matter the location, situation or audience.

Surely there are those who choose a grand and admirable WHAT such as saving the whales . . . and yet perhaps they do so with anger and negativity that becomes toxic. Just as surely there are banking clerks who serve with so much levity and kindness that it overflows onto each customer. For me, the HOW we behave and make others feel in our wake has to be more important than our identifiable “WHAT do you do?”

Maybe our real purpose on this planet is to let go of our obsession with WHAT we are doing as a career and instead be aware of HOW we effect each other. Our guiding light could be kindness, compassion or even to be a positive force. Imagine performing every task and greeting every stranger as well as friend with those intentions. For me that sounds like a solid path to JOY.

May you be Happy

There is a lovely practice I cultivate most days which quickly diffuses a brewing grey mood. Throughout the day there are both situations and people that can trigger a possible annoyance. These triggers can take many shapes and forms. A barista that muddles your order, someone jumping the cue in a long line, or even overhearing an angry customer giving the staff a serve of negative attitude. When I encounter these chapters its quite natural to get a bit miffed and perhaps even cast some form of quick judgement about their character or rudeness. Instead, I try to interrupt this auto pilot reaction and replace it with a silent wish of happiness pointed their way. I tend to use the phrase ‘May you be Happy’. I’ve made a bit of a game of this practice and frequently find myself seeing how quickly I can shift from a space of judgement into one of happiness.

The results are fantastic! Its a quick mood booster and it shifts any negative bits of energy that could linger around and start turning my own mood a bit sour.

During times of extreme triggers – moments of conflict with a colleague; a motorist cutting you off and causing a near collision; its quite challenging to remember to offer people a blessing of happiness. But these seem to be the times that it has the most calming effect. If we can quickly move through fear or feeling hurt, and offer someone a bit of peace and well being . . . well, it feels like that’s when JOY really starts to multiple and stress melts away.

And why not offer someone a slice of positivity when they are under duress? After all, we’re all striving for the same things I reckon – less stress and more JOY.

Give it a go. How many times can you catch your autopilot reaction and which situations are the easiest or hardest?