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"Kindness & Changing Patterns", by Susana Laborde-Blaj

Entering the U.S.A. after our last trip to Mexico, I had a little nostalgia floating in my soul. I remembered the warmth and kindness of Aurora, the lady who welcomed us with a smile and a hug, when we arrived to eat at her house in the very unique Santiago Apoala, Oaxaca, the place where it was said humanity was born. Her touch was so natural and simple, mother-like, that I can almost feel the warmness of her curved hand resting on my shoulder, nurturing and powerful, telling me stories of corn, cacao, caves and waterfalls.

Kindness. Students welcoming me where I teach, treating each other warmly. The bus drivers (the two bus drivers that I see now on my ride) smiling and kindly joking. The flowers themselves seem to have a certain degree of generosity, only to show up and share their beauty with us.

During my practice I try to be kind to myself, and patient. Sometimes, I succeed.

My mother used to tell me that her mother always said something nice to everybody she encountered, always. To see the good, what a great skill to have! My grandmother had created that habit, and it became part of her personality. She could have chosen to be unkind, but she didn’t. And each time she said something nice to somebody, it reinforced that behavior. My mother learned it from her, and it is something that she does naturally. She has done it all her life. We call these patterns of behavior, and, of course, they are related to patterns of mood and thought.

My teacher, Gary Kraftsow, talks a lot about patterns, and how the purpose of a deep yoga practice is to make unconscious patterns conscious, and to work on establishing functional patterns that ultimately will make us a better person.

Not all of us are as lucky as I am, I know. I happen to have had a grandmother, and have a mother for whom it was/is natural to be kind.

What to do to establish functional patterns?

We have to see our dysfunctional patterns first (yes, all of us have some of those!), bring them to the surface, to the light. Once they’re conscious, we can, if we have the real desire to change them, build the will power and the energy that is necessary and establish new, functional patterns with dedication and consistency. My teacher actually says that this requires so much energy that the purpose of asana and prānāyāma is mainly to build this energy (Prāna Śakti).

We do this constantly in a yoga practice, establishing functional patterns as we move consciously, as we breathe consciously, as we think consciously. Hopefully, we can do this with kindness.


Back from Mexico, I arrived at LA airport with my heart wrinkled and hardened, bracing in preparation for harsh words. The immigration guy saw us and our passports. After a couple of simple questions, a broad, sincere smile crossed his face. He looked into our eyes and said in Spanish: “Bienvenidos!”

My heart melted into tears, and I felt happy to come back to this place, which is also my home.

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