Lately I’ve been thinking about my own behavior and wanting to get better at practicing kindness, and going along with it, the intersections of satya and ahimsa. Back when I first began my yoga teacher training journey, I thought a lot about satya and ahimsa, but then the topic sort of fell off my mind’s back burner and I hadn’t considered it in a while. Lately, though, I’ve been noticing myself engaging in some inappropriate behavior and comments, especially at work.
For example, one of my colleagues in my office – we’ll call him Larry – has a droning, lengthy way of talking that makes him difficult to listen to, and he’s in a position where he periodically conducts trainings, all of which seem to do in an hour what could have been accomplished in 20 minutes with time for questions. This would be bad enough, but Larry is also not a very friendly or nice man, and my friends who have worked with him more closely report that he’s also not very good at his job. However, not even all of this taken together is justification for making fun of him behind his back. I’ve caught myself saying some rather cruel things about Larry when he comes up in conversation, just for the purpose of getting a laugh. No one deserves to be the butt of a joke – who knows what’s going on in Larry’s life that makes him act the way he does? And all of the things I’ve said about Larry may be technically true, but did they need to be said? Or did they need to be said that way? Practicing satya demands that I be truthful, but it doesn’t demand that I say every truth out loud; practicing ahimsa means not letting violence into my speech. This is one of those instances where, if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all.
One of my colleagues at another company, Bob, sent an email asking about a project. I had told Bob about the project back in May and we’d even paid Bob’s first invoice for work on this project, so I got annoyed. Instead of just giving Bob the information he needed, I dug up the earlier correspondence and forwarded that along too, and then sent an email to another involved editor at my company, basically saying “That Bob! He needs to get his act together!” Now, maybe Bob did need to get his act together – it seems that there was something incorrect in his records, which was why it didn’t come up when he looked for the project – but there was no need for me to act the way I did. Everybody makes mistakes, and Bob is no exception. I should have just given him the information he needed in a non-judgmental way. And the extra email to my coworker was completely out of line. Again, practicing that balance of satya and ahimsa would have helped me here – delivering the truth and no more, in a kind and compassionate way.
I think part of this issue stems from my own uncertainty in my job. I was moved to another group last summer, and we’re still shaking out some of our roles. Sometimes I have a lot of very important time sensitive work to do; other times I am processing invoices or doing other basic work because our group doesn’t have an editorial assistant; still other times, I am waiting for work to be given to me. I am supposed to have my own projects, but because of my boss’s deeper involvement in the overall product, much of the workflow is still tied up around her and has to go through her first; often I feel like I am waiting for her to give me tasks to do, which is frustrating because I’m used to working independently. I think I’ve been taking this frustration out on others – putting down people like Larry and Bob to make myself feel more secure and more important.
But the office isn’t a playground, and this behavior is childish. What I need to do instead is to open myself to learning new things – if I can learn more about what my boss does on our overarching product, I’ll be able to work more autonomously and will be able to help her more with her heavy workload, balancing out the work between us. Opening my heart and practicing humility on the larger scale, practicing satya and ahimsa in the short-term – these will help me to navigate these challenges and respond to my colleagues with the compassion they deserve.