The Yoga of Caring

Posted on in Healthy Living by Diana Hull


“We cannot do great things in this world. We
can only do small things with great love.”

—Mother T eresa

Falling in love with life is easy when you know what you care about and show how you care. In its essence, caring is an art—the art of offering kindness and concern for others.

Caring is also a calling. To some, caring comes by nature. For others, it takes an upheaval to hear the call. Pain is known as the great awakener, but so is love. Profound callings come from a combination of pain and passion. In times of great change, doors open, creating opportunities for action. Those who recognize such a door—and commit to crossing it—step onto the path where the quest of caring begins. Yoga connects our feet to that path, guiding us across the threshold of transformation and into the unexpected.

The search for mindfulness and the quest for meaning in a material world is creating a movement toward yoga, meditation, and mindfulness trainings. Research results are pouring in from scientists and neuropsychologists on the benefits. Something clearly has clicked. From babies to seniors, Western yogis are discovering that what cannot be changed externally can change from within.

Yoga provides a powerful opening and resource for discovering the path of caring. Caring lifts us above the mundane, bringing clarity and returning meaning to our life. In the journey of caring, the one called must accept the path, understand the tasks, and then take action. There are three paths to enter.

The first path cares for the self. The Buddha instructs us that “mindfulness of the body is the body’s mindfulness.” Every emergency response team is trained to check the safety of the rescuer before attempting the rescue. Yoga provides tools for self-rescue—healing the body, integrating the mind, and recovering the spirit of joy. A recent wealth of research on meditation has revealed an unexpected phenomenon. Those who meditate increase their capacity for compassion, dissolve perceived barriers between people, and increase acts of virtue toward others. Through the practice of caring for ourselves, we develop self-compassion and self-awareness. Meditation grows mindfulness, increasing the capacity to compassionately respond to suffering in others.

The second path brings us the calling to care. What do you care about? Our culture inundates us with so many broad messages of pain and suffering that we become inured and shut down. Caring asks us to pay attention, but only requires us to attend to our own corner of the world, with whatever skills we possess. Recognizing suffering and responding empathetically awakens the call to care. On this path we are at a crossroad where we choose to undertake the journey or to leave it behind. Both come with a price, but when we are called, the cost of denial is high. There is a deep, driving need to heed the call. When uncertainties arise, guidance comes from practice, the perspective of a still mind, observation of the situation, and investigation of doubts. Perfection is not required. We simply must cultivate and trust our innate gifts and accept our shortcomings as we move deeper into the journey of caring.

The third path brings caring into action. Compassion is not only the awareness of suffering in ourselves and others, compassion requires us to do something about it. As Stephen Cope, author of The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling, said, “We can’t be everything we want to be or do everything we want to do, but we can rearrange conditions in our life so that we do what we can.” Action begins with intention—we organize energy around it, aligning resources, focusing our attention, and acting in accordance with our own true nature, without attachment to outcome. All that is required is our best effort.

Acts of caring are of extreme importance in today’s world, where people are on the edge and the environment is on the verge of great change. Responding to a calling to care awakens the extraordinary life. Herein lies the gifts of caring: as the receiver gains benefit from comfort or release from suffering, the giver also experiences a transformation, a sense of fulfillment, and restoration of wholeness, meaning, and purpose. Ultimately, an increased consciousness begins to permeate all aspects of a life lived compassionately, dedicated to the art of caring.Perhaps this great yoga movement of the twenty-first century will transform us into kinder, more compassionate people, at ease with ourselves, respectful of each other, and at peace with the world around us.

Diana Hull facilitates a Yoga of Caring support group for caregivers in Santa Cruz. She also facilitates yogic experiences for seniors and for those with memory loss in the Bay Area.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Join our once-monthly newsletter to get all the latest news & resources

No spam. Unsubscribe any time.