Written by Kayla Reetz, Yoga Instructor + Trauma Supports Team Member
"If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete." - Jack Kornfield
Compassion. What is it?
According to the Oxford American Dictionary, compassion is “sympathetic pity and concern for sufferings and misfortunes of others.”
Wow. I don’t know about you, but when I read the word “pity,” I had a negative gut reaction.
Never have I looked at compassion as a form of pity.
Maybe this is a Midwestern cultural thing, but in my experiences with pity, it has always been a form of shame or guilt- both of which have negative connotations.
So, it makes compassion look a little negative too.
Because this didn’t satisfy what I knew about compassion, I read on.
Further down on the google search was the suggested question “What is the true definition of compassion?”
According to the Miriam-Webster Dictionary, compassion is a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”.
Ah! That felt more like the compassion I knew. Phew! I was concerned there for a second.
But what does this look like in real life? It is so easy for us to sit 🎶in our own little corner in our own little chair (or mat, rather) 🎶 and contemplate compassion and its use, but what about when it punches us in the gut on the go?
This is what happened to me recently and has sent me into a tailspin ever since…and to make matters worse, it was with family.
It’s been my experience that the people I love most have the ability to cut me the deepest.
Therefore, my gut reaction is to react defensively.
Brené Brown’s work has taught me this reaction usually stems from fear or anger. And I think she’s right.
I need to process through the emotions and it isn’t pretty.
It is not a reflection of who I actually want to be and what I want to teach the young people around me.
Those are the moments where practicing compassion is the hardest and the best teachable moments if one can do it successfully.
Surface level = I am angry.
Deeper level= I am afraid I am not loved and appreciated for who I am and only for what I have to offer. I am afraid I will lose a relationship dear to me.
How can I work on the “know” part?
Well, I have to practice the PAUSE.
I have to stop the onslaught of things I want to say in defense and take a breath.
In the heat of the moment, it might sound something like, “I need space to think about how I am feeling with this”.
There is even a mudra we teach kids in our Yoga in the Schools program called ‘I Need Some Space.’
And, after acquiring the space, we then have a few moments to dig deeper.
We can look at the situation from almost an outsider’s perspective and go through the possible options.
Therefore, we can “Choose”.
And finally, after thinking about what the best outcome could be, we “Give”- of ourself, for ourself, and for others.
We may even be able to address the underlying issue instead of what everyone saw on the surface.
No, this is not easy work. And especially in the beginning, it is going to take time to practice.
It will require patience and something that both me and my family struggle with sometimes: waiting.
But maybe when we “wait”, the “weight” of the moment can lift and we can make better choices.
I know this is something I will continually be working on which means if you choose to as well, you won’t be doing it alone.
~ Kayla Reetz
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