This is a conversation the little mouse living in our basement scribbled down:
“Darling, did I gain any weight?”
“Yes, I think so.”
Well, I had asked. But still. Gasp.
One of yoga’s catchphrases is ahimsa, the concept of not causing harm. Even if you’ve never had a class of Sanskrit in your life, you’d likely be familiar with it. Nowadays, it’s almost a buzzword and practitioners subscribing to the concept will not only include other human beings but animals and, why not think big, mother nature. Don’t do or say anything that will harm anyone, directly or indirectly.
As yoga has developed a more competitive edge, the word ahimsa has frequently been dropped in a conversation about someone’s practice (as in: don’t do full splits if you’ve started yoga yesterday) and has taken a new dimension: Not causing harm to your own body. The idea, of course, is that there’s really no point in being compassionate with every man and his dog – but not ourselves.
So far, so good.
Now, there’s yet another entirely different dimension entering the room, slamming the door and making the window glasses clink. We look up, in disbelief. The troublemaker cries out, with an edgy voice: “Compassion is idiotic!” It’s an utterly fascinating concept and totally worth exploring. It’s not really new, but even old ideas are worth sharing if they’re great.
The term “idiot compassion” has been coined by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and the quickest way to get your head around it is this explanation by his student, Pema Chodron:
It refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion. In some ways, it’s what’s called enabling. It’s the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering.
Interestingly, if being “compassionate” requires dishonesty, it’s not about the other person. It’s all about us. It’s about how we feel. It’s about avoiding the difficult path, administering the bitter medicine that would allow the other one to make a change, to move on, to reflect.
But we don’t want them to feel good, even if that’s the result. We want to feel good ourselves. And this is the cause.
So what if telling the truth, upsetting our friends, families, loved ones, was actually the compassionate thing to do? And what if they knew with certainty that they can rely on our honest feedback? Who cares about a wobbly ass, but how about the major things in life?
Honesty is hard to stomach. But stuck between a rock and a hard place, at crossroads, when it’s time for major decisions – I’d prefer honesty to flattery.
How about you?