I often end my yoga classes with the Compassion Meditation. The words I recite are these: “May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be free from suffering, and may you know peace.” The words themselves often expand to other hopes and blessings I hold for my students. They emerge from the infinite and the sacred pauses between the breaths.They hold no agenda. They are simple and spoken from the heart. I have recently started to add the words, “May you continue to share your gifts with the world.” We all have gifts. Some unspoken and some unseen. What if we could acknowledge and receive our own unique gifts, our individual tidings in the same way that the sea receives each drop of sunlight, cascading like river bound jewels on a journey of tranquility? What if we could recognize that our capacity to love is as spacious as the moon’s light filled embrace? What if we could sense the connection to others in the same way that trees touch their roots beneath the earth’s surface? It’s all here and our universe mirrors back to us our potential for seeing our gifts in their simplicity.
Regardless of your lineage, your creed, your tribe, or your namesake, yoga lets the light get in. When the light gets in, our gifts are illuminated. Yoga provides a containing space to experience our gifts through the practice of active attunement. As we surrender to rest and release, we take refuge in the reality of what is actually here. Sensations, breath sounds, endless rivers of thoughts, and somatic memories all invoke and invite resting in the present moment. The nervous system is conditioned to remember. For example, when the body senses sun on the skin, it remembers the warmth which can burn away the coldness of isolation. When our bodies experience the embrace from a beloved friend or family member, an imprint of love remains. The power to remember love is the antidote to hate. When evoked, it can burn away the barrier that hate perpetuates. Our ability to challenge and oppose suffering with these inner gifts, fosters empowerment and efficacy on many different levels. So how do we reconcile with and offer our gifts both freely to ourselves and others in a world that uses a quantification as a means to measure value?
Our society has a deeply embedded pattern of stratifying, labeling, and categorizing just about everything. There are contests and competitions that celebrate the prettiest, the smartest, and the richest just to name a few. Often times the individuals deemed worthy of these accolades are celebrated and distinguished from the masses. It is through this process of categorizing that leads to a system in which some are acclaimed and others devalued. This takes a toll on the human psyche. Ways of knowing, other than the dominant cultural paradigm, have historically suffered subjugation and social marginalization. Women, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, gender variant, poor people, people with disabilities, refugees, and immigrants have all had their ways of knowing pushed to the margins and denied a voice in the public sphere. The great feminist psychotherapist Laura Brown says that “the radical notion that silenced voices of marginalized people are considered to be the sources of the greatest wisdom.” The prolific feminist writer Gloria Anzuldua says:
“The struggle is inner: Chicano, indio, American Indian, mojado, mexicano, immigrant Latino, Anglo in power, working class Anglo, Black, Asian--our psyches resemble the bordertowns and are populated by the same people. The struggle has always been inner, and is played out in outer terrains. Awareness of our situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come before changes in society. Nothing happens in the "real" world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.”
It’s the power to imagine what we want for ourselves and our communities and in that way, we can share our visions with the world. Some of the world’s most profound social movements were born out of space, where there was a letting go of the shackles that kept humanity stuck in a force of oppressive structures that dictated the standards of living. When we access our gifts, we have the strength and clarity to challenge these structures and then dissolve them.
Yoga is the practice of dismantling and leveling these structures, uncovering the gifts that are hidden, suppressed, and denied. Shadows are strengths too. They are simply mirrors of truth. They reflect back to us what we fail to see in the light. Social scientist Brene Brown says, “Discovering, developing, and sharing our gifts is a spiritual practice; it’s one way for us to grow stronger in our faith.
So how do we cultivate our gifts in a way that is separate from the way in which “gifts” are socially defined (i.e jobs, possessions, merit, achievement). These socially defined gifts are not accessible to everyone, therefore it is through collective illusion that they continue to define self-worth. I will often ask clients to identify the things they loved to do as children. Which activities were they most drawn to? What experiences excited you the most? Where did your attention linger for hours? When did you find yourself losing track of time? Whenever I connect to my childhood, I imagine myself standing outside and staring in awe at the sky. I remember feeling the wind on my face and feeling a deep reverence for nature. We begin by touching our awareness through meditative practice. In that space of stillness, we become the silence and our true nature can emerge. There is a powerful realization that our gifts are always inside of us and the ability to be present, allows our bodies to capture the essence of each moment, savoring the richness of sensory input and encoding them as vibrant echos that can always be called upon for strength and stability. These living remnants offer us a way to meet and join with others in a way that dissolves the sense of a separate self. We do not experience emotions in a vacuum. There is a universality to human emotions, just as there is a collective vision for safety, peace, and sustainable happiness. In order to share your gifts with others, you must be able to honor and experience them in the silence that is our essence. May you continue to share your gifts with the world, those which allow you to share with others the embodied richness of your being.