Do those words sound familiar? I wish I could say they didn’t, but they do. Not only have I been the recipient of that phrase in some iteration, but I’ve also been the one to use it. That got me to thinking (yep, and over-thinking). When we communicate with others and are trying to be considerate of their feelings, do we make the error of taking on the responsibility (for whatever the choice or response)? And if that is the case, are we really doing the other person any good by not being honest? What would happen if we sat in the truth for a bit and actually expressed what we meant?
I have been trying to figure out a way to connect this thought to my yoga practice. Finally I realized, it’s not my practice on the mat with which it connects – it’s my practice OFF THE MAT! In my mind, that’s a much more difficult practice to master. As stated in the Yoga Sutras, the first of the eight limbs of yoga is the Yamas, and the first two yamas are ahimsa and satya. Ahimsa means non-violence and in the sutra translation I own, this extends beyond physical violence but also to harmful thoughts and words. Satya is truthfulness – need I say more? In my own physical practice, I am becoming adept at applying these yamas. I am learning to back off of poses that cause pain, thus softening my practice a bit, and I’m quite honest with myself about my physical limitations on the mat. However, when I roll up my mat and step back out into the world and consider applying these principles in the abstract, it is much more difficult. On the mat, I’m the only one who will reap the benefits or pay the consequences of my decisions around the implementation of these yamas but off the mat, I know I have to consider the other folks in my life.
I will speak for myself here when I say that the times when I don’t share my thoughts with others, I think I am practicing ahimsa, but upon reflection, I may be doing so while at the same time sacrificing satya. If I tell someone that it’s not him/her, it’s me, but that really isn’t the case then I’m not honest with anyone – even myself – and for whom is that non-harmful? No one! I know that when I hear the phrase “it’s not you, it’s me”, in my head I instantly think I’m being fed a bunch of crap, start over-analyzing and perhaps start ticking off all my internal and external flaws (am I too type-A? is it the 3 pounds I have put on recently? am I communicating too much?) . I do this because I know when I have used a similar phrase, I am usually thinking of all the real reasons behind my action.
Perhaps the lesson (for me) in all of this is that I need to practice open and honest communication in a manner that supports the listener. What good will it do me to speak my truth – especially if the conversation is a difficult one – if I do so in a manner that puts the receiver on the defensive. Ahimsa goes out the window! Conversely, how can I listen to the truths that others are sharing with me without being reactive and thus respond in a non-harmful manner (and by this, I mean not judging or beating myself up when I hear “It’s not you, it’s me”).
I do want to say that there are times when communicating that I don’t need to worry about ahimsa or satya. Or rather what we communicate can be a win-win. Just a week ago I was having dinner with a friend and at the end of the meal I told him that I really have fun hanging out with him and he responded in kind. I spoke my truth and it was not harmful! What I should have said was, “I’m having a great time and it’s not me, it’s you!”