We are taught as children to be always be kind to others. Play nice always. Share your toys and snacks always. Always help others in need. Yet somewhere along the way to adulthood, many of us fall off the kindness track. Expressions such as “please” and “thank you” are no longer the norm, they seem to be the exception. Why is that?
Maybe it’s in the drive to succeed in life, to get ahead, that we forget (or elect to forget) the manners of “kindness all ways, always” that our parents, grandparents, teachers, etc. instilled in us. It’s like suddenly somewhere between being 12 and turning 30 (or older) we forget the simple rules of doing nice things for others, not gossiping about others and not realizing the world doesn’t revolve around us.
Fortunately as yogis, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali serve as a guide to get us back on track to being kind all ways, all the time. One of my favorite yoga sutras, 1.33, suggests four attitudes we should consider as a way to practice kindness toward every single person we encounter – even to those that might not be so kind to us. “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”
These four attitudes (friendliness, compassion, delight, disregard) are described by Patanjali as the four keys. These four keys that are available to us anytime we encounter someone regardless of whether they are happy, unhappy, honorable or dishonorable.
Recalling the definition of yoga (which I wrote about here in 2012) stated in sutra 1.2 “yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.” I believe in order to still the mind we first need to simply start with the practice of slowing down. By slowing down, we heighten our awareness of how we can be more kind towards ourselves and others. Acts of kindness can be as simple as smiling at a stranger on the street, saying something positive toward yourself (vs. criticizing) or even just saying “thank you” to someone who held the door open for you. Eventually by infusing all our interactions with kindness we begin to feel a sense of peace and calm in our bodies, minds and hearts which enables us to move closer to experiencing sutra 1.2.
Practicing kindness all ways, always is a great way to take your yoga off the mat. Notice how many opportunities there are throughout your day to be kind toward your office mates, family, strangers, friends, the bus driver, etc. Consider these moments of kindness off your mat as your way of doing office yoga, commuting yoga, family yoga, or whatever you want to call it yoga practice.
Every moment is a yoga practice in disguise. And when you’re unsure how to act or what to do, turn to sutra 1.33 to help you unlock the door to the kindness that resides in your heart.