Compassion & Selfless Service – Ways to Help Right Now
Sheltering in place for months has illustrated interconnectedness in action. Now is not the time to retreat by turning a blind eye to those in need. Actions have power. And perhaps nothing illustrates that more than the recent #BLM protests, where in the midst of a life-threatening pandemic, brave souls took to the streets to put an end to systemic racism.
Whether it’s helping out during the pandemic or fighting for the rights of others, each of us can be a force for positive change. One way to do that is through selfless service, an important part of yogic teachings. According to luminary master teacher, Swami Ramananda, President of Integral Yoga Francisco, “We need not wait for some level of enlightenment to take Yoga off the cushion or mat and into the street. We can purposely practice moving, talking, and thinking with peace and compassion in our hearts.”
Here are some ways to help...
Amplify BIPOC Voices
Thanks to social media, sharing is a way of life, from the subtle to grand. So stay on the radar of inspiring BIPOC activists and artists by following them. Ask questions and engage. Continually educate yourself. Unless done with regularity, sharing won’t make an impact. So make an effort to add diversity into your social feeds, literature, films/TV, until it becomes second nature. Check out activist/actor/model Indya Moore's Instagram profile for links to support the BIPOC community.
Small Meaningful Things
According to Connie L. Habash, Raja Yoga/Meditation/Hatha teacher/Trainer, selfless service is rooted in karma yoga, the practice of work without attachment. And these kinds of actions might surprise you, since they aren't always obvious. Habash says, “It’s not just about volunteering at a soup kitchen, but helping your neighbor, doing the dishes even when it isn’t your turn, or picking up trash at the beach. And standing up for the rights of others that look different than you.”
Wear a Mask, Make a Mask
The CDC recommends wearing a mask as an added layer of protection, as it deters the coronavirus from spreading. Being that it protects others, just the act of wearing a mask is an act of compassion. Unfortunately all masks aren't equal in effectiveness or comfort. So if you know someone who has difficulty finding a mask, or has an uncomfortable one, show you care by creating one from breathable natural fabrics, such as tightly woven cotton, denim, and/or silk. Check out a breakdown of DIY mask videos from Mashable.
When talking to a person who shares their feelings, it's common to jump in, and tell your own similar experience. Even though the impulse may spring from a sincere place, it's not the most thoughtful choice. Doing so takes the focus off of the person sharing, and redirects the spotlight on you. However unintentional, when you deflect attention this way you can't truly hear, and take nonverbal cues from body language. A kinder alternative is to listen completely. Be in the moment. Also important: resist fragmenting your gaze by looking at your phone, or elsewhere. Instead, offer up your valuable energy with openness. In the words of Swami Ramananda, “We bring compassion into conversations when we listen deeply to another person and make a real effort to understand and respect their needs, instead of stubbornly defending our own.” So resist the urge to interrupt. And instead of trying to “fix” what's being said with solutions to challenges... Empathize. Become curious. Ask questions.
Support the Arts
Countless theater companies and arthouse cinemas aren't able to do business and effectively socially isolate. Until a solution surfaces, there are various ways to show support, such as online lectures, performances, and classes. If you're considering donating to the arts, explore black theater companies. Likewise, when buying books, seek out small online booksellers with brick and mortar shops, struggling to stay afloat, and offer extra support to black owned independent bookstores.
It may be some time before Yoga studios are able to support in-person classes safely. In the meantime, countless studios, such as Integral Yoga San Francisco offer online classes by donation. In many cases, you will have the privilege of taking lectures, kirtans, and hatha classes from master teachers, who would otherwise not be accessible. Consider staying dedicated to regular classes at the studio of your choice. Additionally, help spread awareness by sharing on social media about your favorite classes and teachers. Check out black yoga teachers online classes. A little selfless promotion can go a long way.
According to Babita Spinelli, Licensed Psychotherapist, Certified Relationship Coach, “Your fear and anxiety can limit your interactions with others making it difficult to be compassionate.” It's important to be open and willing to expose your inner world. Especially, when having tough conversations that can be tempting to avoid. According to Spinelli, “being vulnerable encourages others to lean into their own vulnerability.” So acknowledge your own feelings, even when it’s difficult. Doing so helps, “normalize their feelings/emotions which will open up a space where they can feel more comfortable to share,” says Spinelli.
Food For Thought
If you have friends who find it difficult to shop for food, consider local food co-ops and delivery services like Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market that ship fresh produce regularly. It doesn't have to be ongoing. You can send a care package with foods that keep, such as canned and dehydrated veggies, quinoa, rice, ect...
Even though these acts of kindness and selfless service are done without expecting a reward, they're still beneficial for wellbeing. According to Spinelli, “Compassion for others can boost your own mental wellness and increase resilience as well as your own coping mechanisms. When you show compassion, you reduce our own stress by channeling it towards providing help and distracting you from your own worries.” So experiment with different ways to expand your reach. At the same time, extend compassion to yourself as well. The more centered and balanced you are, the better equipped you will be to help others.