When you or a student or client is struggling with a long-standing, seemingly unchanging, deeply embedded pattern, one that causes harm, neglect, or criticism (with themselves or others), how do you know which course is best: Compassion or Action?
Through the lens of yoga, a stuck pattern is called Tamas (or tamasic). It means that which is stable, inert, inactive, dull. The word for Action is Rajas. That which is mobile or motivated. More likely to catalyze change.
Ideally, yoga recommends making wise use of Tamas and Rajas to create the opportunities for Sattva: that which is lucid, clear, graceful, and loving. Each of us needs just enough Tamas (stability and structure) and just enough Rajas (motivation and courage) to move toward Sattva.
As a mental health therapist, healer, educator, or yoga steward, it's our responsibility (and our honor) to provide the conditions of enough safety, stability, and structure for our client or student to come into a relationship with themselves and with us in which we are able to collaborate on their healing. To be this stable enough lighthouse (as we like to call it), it is profoundly important that our compassionate (sattvic) nature is alive in us.
However, it is important to remember that compassion doesn't mean that we fall into apathy or resignation.
That would deepen tamas.
We are also in a role where we have the honor of helping a client to choose actions (rajas) in healthy directions for them. (Action without wisdom won't be helpful. And, swinging back and forth between inertia and compulsive action that lacks wisdom may cause a deepening of the inertia when efforts aren't producing the desired outcome.)
With this in mind, we recommend the following considerations which we teach to clinicians in our trainings :
"How can I help?" (them asking this of their body)