In terms of influence, Sharon Gannon is like the Madonna of yoga. (And, in fact, Madonna was once one of her clients!) As the founder of New York City’s Jivamukti Yoga with her husband David Life, she helped chart a new path for yoga in the United States, affecting how the tradition itself evolved and how it gained a reputation as a culturally-relevant practice that could help all kinds of people meet the challenges of modern life. Many of the big-name teachers today—like Colleen Saidman Yee and Heather Lilleston—started their training with Gannon.
In her new book, The Magic Ten and Beyond, she distills her teachings into ten practices you can do easily each morning for a happier, more yogic existence. One of those is “giving blessings,” which she explains in an excerpt, below. If you’re not super spiritual, that might sound a little out there. Actually, it’s a simple solution for dealing with difficult people in a way that will help you stress less and love more.
Blessing the Way: Giving Blessings
When we are at peace with the other people in our lives, we can be at peace with ourselves.
The other people in our lives exert a tremendous amount of power over us. Thoughts of them fill our waking and our dreaming life. We become sad, angry, jealous, or depressed by focusing on the faults and shortcomings of others. We dwell on the insensitive way they are treating us or have treated us in the past. We often blame others for why we aren’t succeeding or why we can’t achieve the happiness we deserve. We feel treated unfairly by others, unloved or not loved enough. We think that we deserve better. We often feel sorry for ourselves and long to be surrounded by loving and supportive people who think we are amazing. Right? And our excuse is always, “If only he would stop . . .” or, “If only she didn’t do . . .” We too often feel that other people are in our way—in the way of our happiness. The others in our lives are actually providing us with the way. But we must be willing to see them in that light.
To be free of all the nasty people in your world is possible.
Have faith in the knowledge that all the nasty people in your world can change. But don’t wait for them to change on their own, or you’ll be waiting forever! You must change them yourself. If you want someone to be a holy being, you must see him or her as a holy being. They actually only exist in your own mind anyway. They have come from your own past karmas and appear according to how you see them.
How you see anyone or any situation in your present life is due to your past karmas— how you have treated others, in your past. When the great saint Ramana Maharshi was asked, “How should we treat others?” he replied, in yogic fashion, “There are no others.”
We cannot escape our past karmas—the actions we have already done—but we can start now and do our best to plant the kinds of seeds we want to see grow in the future. Cultivating forgiveness, kindness, and friendliness toward others results in spiritual strength. So much suffering comes from seeing ourselves as a victim of others—as a repository for their selfishness, cruelty, greed, insensitivity, and so forth. We see the world as “out there,” coming at us, instead of taking responsibility and realizing that the world we see outside of us has come from inside us, from how we have treated others in our past. Others provide us with a karmic projection—a mirror in which to see ourselves.
The way of the yogi is to dive deeper. The nature of the eternal soul is joy, and this is the only true reality; everything else is temporary. When one realizes the nature of his or her own soul they discover the true Self—that which can never be harmed by anyone. Through the practice of giving blessings to others you come closer to the experience of the power of your own soul— the power of goodness.
When we hug someone we pull them toward us and hold them against our heart. We communicate that we want to be at peace with them, and that we wish them well. To hug someone is to bestow a blessing from the goodness of one’s heart.
As the blessing comes through you, it changes you. By giving blessings to someone else you change the negative perception of that person in your own mind and you also change the perception of yourself as someone who sees negativity. Giving blessings is an anonymous way of changing your world—it can turn devils into angels. And it can all happen in the privacy of your own mind—you don’t have to “meet them for coffee” and talk it out. If you aren’t willing to see someone as a good person, how can you expect him or her to be one? The power is in your hands—well, actually, your mind. The question is, how willing are you to forgive, to let go, and to allow love to lead the way?
Compassion is infinite; you won’t run out, so don’t be stingy with your blessings— give your blessings to everyone—to the people you don’t like as well as the ones you do like. Blessing the ones you love and seeing them as holy beings ensures that they will remain holy, blessed beings in your life.
Allow the image of someone you know to arise in your mind. As you inhale, silently say, “Blessings and love to—” and as you exhale, silently say the name of that person. Continue focusing on that same person or allow other people to float into your consciousness. As you give the blessing try to visualize the person filled with joy and surrounded by light.
Excerpted with permission from The Magic 10 and Beyond, by Sharon Gannon.
(Featured Photo: Shutterstock)