"Can I give you a hug?”
The other day, when I told the women in my yoga class that my 84-year-old dad suffered a heart attack, one by one, each woman put her arms around me.
In my yoga class, we aren’t shy about expressing love and kindness. We share life’s ups and downs. And often we drift into deep discussions about the mysteries of life.
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Have you been the recipient of a surprise act of kindness? Have you done a good deed recently? Let us know about it. Select stories may be published in an upcoming issue of The Gazette.
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Brushed the snow from the car next to mine in the parking lot tonight after mine was done. Hope it made someone’s day!
— Susan Knapik of Amsterdam
The other day in the Niskayuna branch of First Niagara Bank, I went to fill out paperwork at the desk. I found a wallet, brought it up to the teller, and the fellow at her window was the owner of the wallet. Everyone thanked me.
— Joan Nickel of Alplaus
We do this because of our instructor, Judy Wyle.
Judy has taught yoga in Saratoga Springs for 25 years. Her Joy of Yoga studio is the oldest in town, and, like me, many of her students have been with her for more than 15 years.
As I slipped into her cozy studio for a private chat about kindness, Judy sat comfortably on the floor, her legs crossed in front of her, as I struggled with the discomfort of the same position.
Kindness begins with the self, she told me.
“You want peace to begin with you. And yoga is the teaching of loving kindness that begins with the self,” she said. “I believe that a war starts within a person, it becomes a war within a family, it becomes a war in a village, it becomes a war in a state, and that becomes a war.”
At the beginning of class, Judy always reads from a book by a spiritual master, often a Western Buddhist. In January, her readings will be from “Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha” by Tara Brach.
At home, she’s been she is listening to a tape by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk who is known to many Americans.
Like Hanh, Judy believes we need to quiet our “monkey minds.”
“He talks about the NSR, which is the nonstop radio that is our minds. We don’t often find the peace that we’re looking for or the solutions that we need from that.”
But kindness to oneself isn’t easy. It may seem like a “slippery slope” or even “self-centered,” she says.
“You begin to practice it and cultivate a relationship with yourself where you encourage yourself and honor yourself. We are so unaccustomed to praising ourselves. It’s a confusing thing to begin to grasp what it means to be kind to ourselves,” she says.
“The war between every single person is inside of every single person, and navigating that within ourselves is then the way ultimately that we navigate in the world. If we are harboring resentments towards our selves or shame or guilt, which we all do, that gets projected out into the world.”
Judy concludes our chat with a quote from the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet.
“He says the greatest gift we can give to the world is to make peace with ourselves.”
Judy’s ideas for kindness to self and others:
-- Charity begins at home, with one’s self and then it begins one step away from home, with the people that are closest to us.
-- Giving of our time. To listen to somebody.
-- Have a grateful heart.