“Move to plank pose,” Lisa said. “Hands under your shoulders; you can do half-plank if you prefer.”
I pushed up from Child’s Pose and assumed the classic military push-up position, high on my toes, body and arms straight.
“Now,” Lisa instructed, “Lower yourself toward the floor. Take Chaturanga if that’s your practice. Now stay there for a moment and feel the shaking.”
As I lowered my body, taking care to keep my elbows in close to my body, looking straight down, I noticed something…moving. A fuzzy gray speck was steadily marching across my yoga mat. I watched this tiny insect walking along just under my nose as I hovered my entire body a couple of inches off the floor.
“Release and push up into your backbend.”
Careful not to land on my little companion, I dropped to the floor and pushed up into Upward-Facing Dog Pose. My attention was divided. With part of my mind, I was attending to what my instructor was telling me to do and with the other part of my brain, I was keeping track of the location of the pinhead sized bug that was strolling around the front of my mat. It seemed very important not to squish her…him…it.
Ahimsa, or non-harming, is one of the principles of yoga. To many, ahimsa translates into kindness and non-violence toward all sentient beings–which includes all living things, including insects. Some practitioners have taken this so seriously that they walk with a broom to sweep the path ahead of their feet, lest they inadvertently step on some hapless invertebrate, like the teensy ambulating dot I was watching, now while I was in butt-up-in-air Downward Dog.
On my way to the next pose, I glanced at the flowers gracing the altar in the far corner of the studio. Poor bug! She must have lived on one of those and when it was cut and brought inside, she went along for the ride. A beautiful garden was where she belonged, not inside a yoga studio.
It was then that I realized I was feeling sadness.
Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others. It crushes and destroys the pain of others; thus, it is called compassion. It is called compassion because it shelters and embraces the distressed. – The Buddha
There are a lot of emotions and thoughts wrapped up in sheltering and embracing the distressed. Sadness and sorrow. There can a sense of fierceness about their plight. Courage, warmth, love. Even joyousness, admiration, inspiration. Ultimately, according to many, the point of compassion is to relieve suffering. Of all living beings. Everywhere.
Lisa started giving instructions for a much more complicated pose with the disclaimer, “You may not want to do this.” The opening I was looking for! With the utmost care, I scooped my tiny friend up with the fingernail of my pinky. Together, we walked outside and I stood barefoot on the cool sidewalk near which I found a shrub. Leaning down, I allowed the soft gray dot to walk onto a leaf.
Compassion, it is said, doesn’t simply notice the plight of another. Compassion does something about it.
I went back to my mat and watched the braver yoginis working themselves into pretzels. I felt a sense of joy and gratitude and love. I looked at the empty space on my mat and smiled.
Oh yes, it’s Mindfulness Monday!
- You can learn more about compassion by visiting the Compassion and Lovingkindess page at Mindful.org.
- Practice compassion in your daily life by first taking the time to be present and notice the world around you. Look for ways to shelter and embrace someone or something.
- Tweet about it! By inviting others to practice compassion, we make the world a more loving and peaceful place.