Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.

Dalai Lama

One of the very first books I’ve read by the current Dalai Lama was “The Art of Happiness.” This book repeatedly reinforced the notion that happiness comes down to a state of mind. It’s not something that happens passively like aging, nor is it something you can catch, like a butterfly in a net. Happiness must be grown and cultivated internally through compassion.

Reading the book was like watching a TED talk. I felt inspired and motivated. I had the power to control my own destiny! But that outsourced enlightenment I experienced didn’t last. It simply wasn’t something that I internalized and practiced daily.

Several years later, I’ve rediscovered the wisdom of the Dalai Lama’s words while practicing yoga. The very first yoga Yama is Ahimsa – the practice of non-violence in all aspects of life.

We inflict self-violence daily in subtle ways. A punch is thrown when we don’t meet our own expectations and feel shame. Then it progresses to a kick when we get offended at someone who criticizes our taste in music. And finally, the coup de grace, the infinite anger we possess when the concert we’ve been looking forward to all year is cancelled. For days on end we batter and bruise ourselves emotionally without giving ourselves the necessary respite to heal. That’s why we need compassion. We need it to reduce the amount of hostility in our lives.

Compassion revolves around patience and understanding. These ideals that we apply to ourselves? Where did they came from? Other people. And how about those expectations that we enforce upon others? They came from us. There’s no reason that we need to be so strict about how life should and shouldn’t be.

I often get frustrated when people I care about make progress at a glacial pace. For example, why can’t they stop eating junk food after I told them it’s unhealthy? But compassion (and inspiration from nature) has helped me through it. Not everyone can change overnight, and that’s okay. Did you know that caterpillars can stay inside their cocoons for weeks, months, or even years before they metamorphose and emerge as butterflies?

It would be so beautiful if we could just observe our judgements without attaching any negative emotions to them and simply just let nature and time take its course.


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