We’ve all been in that class where our teachers instruct us on how we can open our hearts by doing specific things like rolling our shoulders back, pulling our scapulas down on our backs, arching our thoracic spine, and shining our chest upwards. All of these actions, physically, move our hearts forward.
But when we’re off our mats, what does our spiritual practice look like in working to open our hearts? This is probably the most challenging and one of the scariest metaphoric poses we take on. It’s one that requires courage, faith, and trust beyond what can tangibly be in front of us, in the mundane.
In fact, I wrote a post about something similar in a dog that needed to be rescued. It’s so much easier to see in animals what we do not allow ourselves to see in other humans.
An animal will piercingly bark, try to bite, or run away from us and we understand they’re scared, this is their defense mechanism, and they don’t trust us. We can surmise they’ve been mistreated in some way and it’s not about us and we’re okay with that.
Yet when another human being yelps at us, lashes out, or pushes us away what do we do? Do we close down our hearts and only feel the pain of the rejection that hurts us? Or can we open our hearts and move them forward to see, not our pain, but instead to see theirs?
Practicing empathy and compassion requires some sort of creativity and a sense of faith to see beyond the behavior that is directly in front of us. It allows us to take what we know about someone, and without them telling us, feel what they do; their pain, anger, negative self-talk, their limited beliefs in who they think they are and what they can achieve in this world that leaves them petrified and oversensitive.
And I think there are clearly only two choices to make in these situations: Are we going to be the people who contribute to them staying where they are, in their pain? Or will we be someone who can contribute something to their transformation?
I remember when I first showed up to Marco Rojas’ class and I was broken from the inside out. I was burned out, self-loathing, and angry at life in general and it all showed on the outside, in my face and my unnourished, out of shape body. To me, there was ZERO indication at that time of who I am now and how far my practice has come. I couldn’t even make it through his class! I was panting, falling over, and was hardly flexible. For whatever reason, Marco didn’t care. He’d prod me and little by little, class by class, drop of sweat by drop of sweat, I changed.
Because he opened his heart and saw past the superficial, it planted a new seed in me.
Isn’t that what we do in yoga? We plant seeds with thoughts that then turn into karma. We start simple and begin to build a foundation towards things that are more challenging.
It takes a special person to see the greatness in us that may elude our own psyche and if someone has done that for us, can’t we pay it forward? Someone’s transformation is not on our timetable. We’d be lucky if we get to witness the process. We may never see the fruits of what we contribute. But can’t we at least offer something?
In this karmic way, this is about opening our heart chakra by developing understanding, one human being at a time.
**I’d like to thank my good friend Lisa B. whose love, light, insight, and admirable faith inspired this post.