Ask Parvati 35: The Gift in Gossip – Part 2: Cultivating Compassion

BY Parvati

(Continued from Honesty and Truthfulness)
You ask, “How do we practice satya when we encounter gossip – particularly if the gossip is taking place among people we respect, or even among people who claim to be practicing yogis?”
I finally saw the 1982 movie Gandhi last night. It was incredible. I was impressed by one of the things that the character Gandhi said in this regard. He said he could not act violently against anyone who was acting unrighteously, because he too had faults. Instead, he chose to humbly stand up to what he felt was right through an active resistance to partaking in that which was unrighteous. Very importantly, standing up to unrighteousness started within his own self. He held himself up to the same standards that he inspired the world to live by.
All of us, unless you are a fully realized being, have vasanas (negative tendencies). No one is “free from sin”, so to speak. No one has the right to judge or criticize anyone, because likely they too likely possess the very traits (to some degree or another) that they tend to criticize.
As I said last week, to me, the foundation of yoga practice is humility. Spiritual evolution seems to start there. Through humility, we become receptive to that which is much greater than our ego; and we can allow ourselves to be guided by it.
No one is perfect. Part of our journey as an aspiring yogi is to understand that and practice compassion. Do you have a tendency to gossip? Yes, likely you do. Does your yoga teacher? Yes, likely they do too. So does everyone who is not realized. We all have that tendency. The difference between an aspiring yogi and one who is still completely unawake is the willingness to work that vasana muscle.
With regards to your ashtanga teacher, you can do a few things:
– You can choose to simply watch your teacher’s tendency to gossip and understand that it is a mirror providing you with an opportunity to practice the release of your own tendency to do so.
– Upon this understanding and from the vantage point of interconnection (not from a place of judgment or self-righteousness), you can quietly speak with your teacher about how you feel uncomfortable about that tendency and ask for more information as to why he/she tends to do that. It is often through the understanding of tendencies, finding out the story behind the action, that we can quickly develop compassion for others’ habits. As Longfellow said: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” Through understanding, we build compassion.
– You can learn these lessons within yourself and move to find another teacher.
Remember that whatever you choose, it is likely that you will need to continue to practice satya yourself. Be humble enough to see that there is no one perfect and, as such, you have a million opportunities a day to let go of your own negative tendencies (vasanas) and practice compassion for all the ignorance and suffering you see within and around you.
Tomorrow, we will look a bit more at gossip and how it hurts in Gossip Hurts.
See you then,