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It is through compassion, that we understand

Ready for another of Yogi Bhajan’s 5 Sutras?

Yogi Bhajan, a master of kundalini yoga and spiritual teacher for decades to thousands worldwide, taught a set of principles that he coined the Five Sutras of the Aquarian Age.

This edition of Soul Notes continues our 5-part series, with this one devoted to Sutra #4: “Understand through compassion, or you will misunderstand the times.”

“Understand through compassion, or you will misunderstand the times.”

[Sutra 4, Yogi Bhajan]

This sutra is one of pure beauty.

With this sutra, it just seems right to take it word by word, each precious word. Remember dissecting and diagramming sentences in English class? Okay, I won’t go there exactly, but I do feel that this particular sutra packs an especially powerful punch! Let’s explore each word or phrase in turn. Throughout, I invite you to tune in and lean into the feelings each invokes.


Understand what, or whom? Does it relate to “the times”? Understand the times? If so, it is a reference to understanding the new age, the Aquarian age. Or, rather, does it mean to understand each other? How about remembering to understand ourselves? I’d venture to say that the answer to these questions is “all of the above.”


Notice that the sutra includes the word, “through.” The word chosen was not “by” or “with” compassion. It’s through compassion. Through suggests that it comes from within, and not from without, from outside ourselves. Through suggests motion, flow, fluidity. It is not passive. It’s active. As so shall we be active in invoking this sutra and its intention.

It is through and from the heart, not the mind, that we live compassion – we ARE compassion. No matter how many positive thoughts  we may have, it is through a compassionate heart that we live in and through our truth. It is through and from the heart that we embody our divine essence.


The word compassion means “to suffer with.”   Suffer means to carry or to bear. So, we carry that feeling or emotion. Again, it’s active, not passive.

Compassion also suggests a shared feeling, understanding or experience. At its core, it suggests oneness, not separateness. This harkens us back to Sutra #1: Recognize that the other person is you. (For a refresher on Sutra 1, go here.)

Recently I started my “Family to Family” training with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a mental health organization devoted to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. As I shared in an earlier post, my brother died by suicide. And, as a child, on more than one occasion I witnessed my mother (who is bipolar) attempting to kill herself. I believe strongly that part of my own spiritual path and calling includes helping others whose families include one or more persons living with a mental illness.

Through the Family to Family course we are learning about brain disorders, including: schizophrenia, bipolar, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and related mental misfirings.

A recent class session was devoted to empathy and compassion – for our loved ones (suffering from these types of brain disorders), and for ourselves. According to the NAMI Family to Family program, empathy is: “The intimate comprehension of another person’s thoughts and feelings, without imposing our own judgment or expectations.”

Many of the behaviors displayed by someone with these disorders seemingly don’t “make sense” to the other family members. Additionally, the behaviors are often erratic and unpredictable, leaving the family members living in a constant state of uneasiness. And, for the person with the disorder, the behaviors often are driven by the need for self-protection and a yearning to feel safe in what truly seems to them to be an unsafe world.

Throughout the empathy learning module, we explored a number of guidelines. Although created to help family members feel compassion toward the person with a brain disorder, I’d venture to say that as with Sutra #4, these are wise words to apply to many a situation in each of our lives. A few of the guidelines are: 1. Don’t criticize; 2. Don’t buy into the stigma all around you; 3. Praise the positive behavior every chance you get; 4. It’s okay to set limits – all persons require rules of conduct and cooperative standards by which to live; 5. Remember, everyone can only try to do their best; and 6. Live from a place of grace (tolerance, endurance and self-restraint), while at the same time extending compassion to ourselves during those times when we may not quite muster up all these graces.

“Let compassion win, and you win.” –Yogi Bhajan.

Or you will misunderstand the times

The times are these.  Right now.  The new age.  The Aquarian age.  These are exciting and exalted times.  Through compassion, may we each rise to meet them.

Okay, your turn:

In what ways has compassion served you and those around you? Is there a time when you wished you had shown more compassion, to yourself or to someone else? What does it feel like, for you, to feel compassion?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Start, and the pressure will be off

When the time is on you, start and the pressure will be off

Remember where we are in our series? Yogi Bhajan, a master of kundalini yoga and spiritual teacher for decades to thousands worldwide, taught a set of principles that he coined the Five Sutras of the Aquarian Age.

Our 5-part series in Soul Notes continues, with this edition devoted to Sutra #3: “When the time is on you, start and the pressure will be off.”

May we all heed this one, and get off our buts! (“But, what about…?” Or: “But, how will I…?”) 

“When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off”

[Sutra 3, Yogi Bhajan]


start - sutra 3Start where you are!

When the time is on you– that just conjures up a feeling of the weight on your shoulders, doesn’t it? Time somehow personifies into an ogre, the ever lurking “Procrastination (Wo)Man,” pressing down on you, constricting your every movement. You’re stuck! Or, so it seems. Alas, what is a soulful, spiritual being to do?

Start. Start where you are. Seems obvious, right? What often happens, however, is that we tend to get ahead of ourselves, and feel as if we should “already be further along.” So, starting from where we are feels like a failure, from the get-go. So we don’t go. Anywhere. At all.

What does it mean when we tell ourselves we should be further along? According to what time table? According to the imaginary one in our head?

Even according to the laws of physics, we can only take the next step from where we are, right in this moment in time. While fanciful imaginings of time travel are as fun for me as the next seer, trying to catapult ourselves ahead of the natural next step is like trying to jump onto a fast moving train. That only works in the movies (and even then only about half the time). In our minds it feels just about as implausible, anyway. So, we simply avoid moving forward altogether. We stand still. Our courage wanes. Our dreams stay on hold.   All the while, the pressure continues to build. And, the longer we postpone it, taking that first step just seems all that more arduous.

Focus on the joy, the sense of fulfillment, instead of the dread

The burden of the waiting, and the avoiding, ultimately exacts a much greater toll than does the actual doing. So, I invite you to join me in hereby proclaiming, from this point forward: “the wicked dread is dead!”

Consider this wild  thought: What if  you were to start?

Instead of feeling the pressure being on, how about feeling the pressure being off ? Ahh…feel into the welcomed state of relaxation. The one where your furrowed brow softens; your shoulders lower back down to their natural position; and your breathing becomes slow, steady, and replenishing.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela

Approach your intended result from a place of confidence and remove all doubt. As you center yourself, experience the task at hand as if you have already handled it with great aplomb. Stop the worry at its source – in your mind. Allow yourself to move forward from a place of inspiration, not perspiration. Let your spirit, your soul, be your guide.

Spirit is above time and space

“When you are afraid, ‘What will happen tomorrow?’ you are not living, you are just dragging. Spirit is above time and space.” –Yogi Bhajan, 7/29/78

We are in a time of elevated awareness and consciousness.   With that elevated consciousness, often comes increased pressure. Expect it, and you’ll be ready. You won’t be caught off guard. Embrace these new levels of pressure, rather than stalling out and avoiding them. “It is now time that we must learn the way to be happy and to thrive under these new elevated levels of pressure.” – Yogi Bhajan, 7/27/99.

Tips for Starting

Remember, Sutra #2: “There is a way through every block.”  Believe that to be so, and be confident in taking that first step.

1. Take any  step in the direction of your intended end state. Sound too daunting? Make the steps smaller. Break them down into bite-sized chunks. [For a refresher on dismantling blocks, go here.]

Still too big? Make the steps smaller yet again, so that your first step is the size you KNOW you can (and will) take.   Martha Beck, PhD calls these “turtle steps.” Feeling of success builds confidence. The proof of the pudding, is in the eating.  (proverb).

2. Set a timer or countdown clock for 11 minutes. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in that amount of time. It brings into sharp focus the immediate task at hand. Moreover, the very act of actually STARTING gets you in motion, and up, out, and away from that nasty procrastination pothole.

3. “Make it to the mat!” As we explored in a previous post, it’s important to put yourself in the right environment to jump-start your activity. As my kundalini yoga teacher says, “just making it to the mat” is the critical first step. Get yourself over to your writing desk, or to the piles of files you’ve been avoiding. Set up an environment that feels good and welcoming, and gets you warmed up and ready to GO! [For more tips on making it to the mat, go here.]

Rise to the occasion! Start, and the pressure will be off!

Okay, your turn:

What prevents you from getting started? Recall how you felt when you (finally) started on a project that you had been avoiding…In retrospect, do you wish you had gone ahead and started sooner? Will you start sooner the next time around?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.