I used to admire outspoken people when I was younger and didn’t know quite how to handle my introversion, but I’ve long since stopped spending time with those who believe “If people don’t like me for my honesty, that’s not my problem.” This isn’t the person who mindfully chooses to speak uncomfortable truths for the sake of activism. This is the person who doesn’t hesitate to point out that ugly shirt or evident tiredness in the face or weight change in a person they hardly know. This is the person who gets a little joy and a boost to their own ego out of shock-value moments and seeing someone’s face crumble.

In the Yogic code of ethics, we speak of ahiṃsā (compassion, self-restraint from violence and harm to others). The Sūtras teachers whom I’ve spoken with who study in the tradition I follow all agree: Ahiṃsā is the foundation upon which we practice the four following ethics, including satya (truthfulness).* It’s worth it to note that the non-violence described in the word “ahiṃsā” applies not only to actions, but words and thoughts, as well. This means that in all situations, first consider if your actions and words are compassionate, and then weigh the necessity of vocalizing what is honest.

Like it or not, most of us don’t live solitary lives. Even if we did live without human companionship, we still don’t exist in a vacuum — we consume and create as long as we’re alive. That makes us all teammates in this game of life and it’s in my best interest to see my teammates succeed. Despite how it may look superficially, I don’t think there’s a single person who doesn’t need more kindness in their lives.

And so, I ask: In our daily interactions with others, how can we cultivate more kindness? In the busy-ness of my life, I don’t have time for grand gestures, so I start with myself. I watch my own thoughts, which informs the word choices I make that then drive my actions. The surest way I know how to positively affect those around me is to know myself and my deepest nature so that I can shift away from reactiveness and live mindfully with those around me.

*The other yamas are asteya (self-restraint from stealing and coveting), brahmacharya (appropriate sexual behavior), and aparigraha (self-restraint from greed and possessiveness).

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