As I teach on yoga’s ethical system at various studios around the country, I am invariably asked about a real life situation and the pressing question of what to do. Although the situation is always unique, the dilemma has a constant theme: how to be both non-violent and truthful in that particular situation. When I reply, “What a great question; keep asking it,” silence takes over the room. The disappointment in my “non-answer” is palpable.
I am becoming familiar with how much we love answers to the lived experience of our complex relationships. I hear it from others; I know it all too well in myself. It seems like a pervasive inner plea to make life easier by being told what the “right” thing is. But the ready-made solution that answers give tends to cheat us by preventing a deeper dialogue with the complexities these experiences bring us.
On one of my travels, I met a studio owner who shared her experience of conversing with nonviolence and truthfulness when her husband of 10 years suddenly said to her, “Honey, I’m working on myself and I want you to tell me all the things that you see I need to work on.” Wanting to honor his earnestness, yet knowing her response could prove disastrous to their relationship, she wisely asked her spouse to let her think about his request for a few days.
She had no idea what to do, she told me. But she was willing to sit in the chaos of not knowing and the complexity of her spouse’s request. She was willing to reflect on what it would mean to respond from a place where both truthfulness and nonviolence prevailed. She was willing to trust that the question itself would reveal an answer. Eventually she was able to say to her husband, “I’ll tell you what, I will give you three things I think you need to work on and 3 things that are awesome about you.”
She didn’t give her spouse a 10-page list of quirks. Nor did she play it safe by denying his request. She masterfully limited the list to 3 weaknesses and then balanced these weaknesses by including 3 strengths. Being able to sit in the “not knowing” allowed her to tap into a kind, authentic response that had previously been unavailable to her.
Simple answers hold an important place in our lives, but they can also steal opportunities for growth. The next time we hear our inner voice longing for things to be easier, perhaps is the time to welcome the gifts waiting to be discovered if we are willing to sit in the complexity.