Practicing Compassion (when you really want to punch someone in the face)

I admit it- I am a bad Yogi at times.  There are many days where I get up early, practice my yoga and my breathing techniques.  I sit in stillness and ask for help in my daily quest to just be more compassionate.  I know that I must first practice compassion with myself and I vow to do so.

At first, all is well.  I am patient with other drivers and let them go first…even when they cut me off.  I back off if they are weaving all over the road because they are on their phone.  I read my emails and just smile when Mr. Smith feels the need to DESCRIBE HIS PROBLEMS IN ALL CAPS AND A PLETHORA OF EXCLAMATION POINTS and invokes the YOU PEOPLE refrain we all so enjoy reading first thing in the morning.

Something shifts with the first phone call of the day (if you haven’t put it all together yet, my day job consists of 90% listening to complaining on the phone, 5% reading email complaints and 5% mindless administrative tasks that have no relevance to serving our customers at all).  I realize the person calling is not going to listen to me or my sage advice as I have been doing this for almost 12 years.  I hang up and hurl a well-crafted yet scathing verbal assessment of the caller’s failings as a human being.  I am quite infamous in the office for these outbursts.

Part of the path of Yoga is to practice Ahimsa or ‘non-violence’.  It’s often the first step we take on the Eight-Limbed Path and it can be something that we study and practice for YEARS.  Ahimsa is not limited to actual physical violence but includes THOUGHTS.  After all…our thoughts are the birth of our deeds and actions.  Whoa.  Whenever I am ‘working’ on myself in this way, I start on the mat when I am physically doing my Yoga practice (Asanas or postures).  I set an intention to practice non-violence- no forcing myself into postures, no berating myself if I fall out of a pose.  As I move through my sequence with this focused awareness, I can change my reactions.  I can be kinder and gentler…I have given myself permission to ‘take it easy’.

Sometimes it works…and sometimes, well, I still get pissed that I cannot hold a Standing Half Moon. So, what’s different? Has anything changed as a result of all my studies if this happens?  I think so. Awareness is EVERYTHING!  This awareness means that I ‘catch myself’ and can stop the process from ruining my whole day or causing injury to body or hurting someone’s feelings.  I can step back and say…’Okay, yep, I just lost my cool but it won’t run away with me this time’.   I won’t let the anger fester and I won’t take it out on the next person I encounter.   I remember, this is temporary and I can let it go.

Before Yoga, I wasn’t aware that I could actually make my life better just by being more aware of my reactions.  Life isn’t happening to me….I am creating my life one moment at a time.  If this brings a bit more peace into my life (and those around me as a result), that’s good enough for me.


Renee Howerton

Aspiring Yogini and Guru to Myself





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