As we continue to move through this season of anticipation here at the Catholic Yogi, the second week of Advent found our family practicing Understanding, and now, in the third week, the week of rejoicing, we are practicing Kindness. As the weeks pass, much to my children’s dismay, we can’t happily throw out the patience we learned, the understanding we realized, or the kindnesses we are uncovering. Instead, we are striving to create habits of these virtues and so carry them with us into our final week of preparing the way.
The kiddos cheer when they think “a week of being patient” has passed, the pressure’s off, no more patience needed! But when we look at the root of all the virtures we find their life force is the same, Love. So, in Understanding, we still find patience, and in Kindness, we still offer understanding. When our fourth week of Advent brings Honesty to our door, I suspect patience, understanding, and kindness will inform our practice of truth.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga according to Patanjali offer Yamas and Niyamas as guidelines for ethical and moral behavior. (For a quick peek at all eight limbs, check out this article by Mara Carrico.) When I think of Patience, the second niyama, Samtosa, comes to mind. It means Contentment. Sometimes when practicing patience, finding contentment in our hearts is not only helpful, but necessary. All the grasping that lives within our impatience is calmed when we are able to embrace the goodness of the right here and now.
Svadhyaya, the fourth niyama, is the study of the sacred scriptures and of one’s self. This reminds me of Understanding. When we seek to be understanding we can study our own habits, thoughts, and behaviors; we can study the scriptures of our own cultural and/or religious disciplines; and, finally, we can study the circumstances, experiences, and situations of others, of our close family, as well as members of our greater communities, even those we haven’t met. When we have a better grasp of ourselves and others, empathy comes more easily.
Empathy has the ability to spur our feelings into action and take us from contemplation into motion. Acts of Kindness resonate with the first yama, Ahimsa, meaning Non-violence. In addition to avoiding harmful behaviors, we seek out ways to lighten the burden and bring comfort.
Satya, the second yama, means Truthfulness and is a great tool in our practice of Honesty. (You can read an excellent article by Judith Hanson Lasater on the practical applications of truthfulness here.) When we are sincere in our interactions with others, way down in the depths of the daily things, like “Are you hungry, would you like to eat before we leave?” “Yes, I am. That would be great,” we find there is less strife, less bitterness, less frustration, and less regret.
With all of these virtues swirling around in our hearts, what great gifts we can give to each other, not just one celebratory day each year, but here and now, way down deep in the daily living.
The Catholic Yogi