The Compassion Gap
I love feeling good. It’s the best. Some of my most pleasant experiences have been on the yoga mat. And yet I often have to remember to pay the good feelings forward, in the form of behaving kindly. There's a gap between my individual sensation of yoga and the compassionate mandate of yoga, and I call that the "compassion gap."
I am always looking at the yoga environment itself: its interests and obsessions, its rhetoric, and its perils. In the last couple of years, I started to see slogans and hashtags about bliss and love; when I began to practice I heard much more regarding discipline and focus.
I believe that once the yoga community transitioned in its emphasis on service to feeling, something more grand was lost. I was actually relieved at the time that it happened because I felt so burdened by being better, doing more, serving more: these all seemed like heavy weights to carry, and honestly I just wanted to feel pleasant and healthy and move without pain. I believe that pleasure can have a broader benefit in our society, and should not be shunned, but pleasure is morally neutral, and I now observe that the pleasurable feelings hatha yoga brings don't always manifest in our social and relational choices.
I love feeling good, but I’m going to run into problems when my good feelings take priority over the health and welfare of others. Sometimes it’s hard to hear from a friend who is depressed or ill, or to deal with the concerns of my parents or children: it doesn’t feel good, and if feeling good is my priority I would discount their needs in favor of my own.
To bridge the compassion gap, I try to remember that pleasure, bliss, and love are not the only goals of yoga. If those were the only goals, I am sure I could find something more fun to do. On the contrary, the tradition of yoga understands relationships and social fabric as the premise of the work. I encourage all teachers and practitioners to consider their responsibility in closing the gap.