A Word from the Kripalu CEO: Why Compassion Is Needed Now More than Ever

In our world, we often resolve complexities into simplistic dualities like us and them, black and white, Christian and Jew, good and bad. While those categorical dualities may appear to make life easier, understandable, and manageable, they are dangerous. They rob us of our essential and deep connections with ourselves and with one another, and make us immune to others’ suffering. We must move beyond the objectification of the other, and expand our capacity to embrace the infinite multiplicity of unity.

Kripalu’s mission of evolving human potential through the wisdom and practice of yoga is needed more than ever. The very translations of the words yoga (“unity”) and Kripalu (“compassion”) are moral compass points directing us to know how to show up—intolerant of hatred and with the commitment to actively growing compassion in our world.

So, how do we do that? It sounds pretty simple, but what is actually involved? There is no compassion for others without compassion for oneself. I firmly believe that hatred of "the other" emerges from self-judgment that disconnects us from parts of our own humanity. Self-compassion begins with developing presence and the ability to see oneself in the fullness of one’s being, and to hold that without judgment. Swami Kripalu teaches that the highest spiritual practice is self-observation without judgment.

It is from a place of non-judgment and compassion for our own full, flawed selves that we can connect to the fullness of others, beyond constructed dualities based in geography, race, religion, gender, politics … This is not easy work. It is truly a lifetime commitment to a practice that cultivates presence and keen observation without judgment.

As I feel the despair of our disconnection, Kripalu’s mission is an urgent call. Kripalu and yoga itself stand as a safe and sacred space that invite us to see ourselves in one another with open curiosity and compassion. The invitation is for us to heal ourselves so that we may repair the world.

Barbara Vacarr, PhD, Kripalu's CEO from 2016–2021, is a psychologist, adult educator, and lifelong meditator who writes about and speaks to topics related to mindfulness, compassion, conscious leadership, and activism.

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