Assertiveness with Mindful Speech: Is it True? Kind? Necessary? Then it’s OK to Assert Yourself!

Lets take the yoga practice off the mat for a moment and consider how Personal Ethics and the concepts of Mindful Speech tie to the Yamas and Niyamas of yogic philosophy.

For someone talkative and word-prone, the idea of speaking mindfully is a question of stopping the constant flow of chatter. It is a filter to slow down and choose whether or not to say the things.

However, there are others who might use the tests of Mindful Speech as a tool for liberation, rather than restraint.

Many people think that it is necessary to withhold their opinions or desires for the sake of being ‘nice’. That to utter something on his or her own behalf would be selfish or unseemly.

A practical example

Take for example, “Bob”, one of many people who have inspired the off-the-mat series having benefited from a random tidbit of practical yogic wisdom.

Bob was unable to assert himself out of fear of what others would think of him. He would not stand up to his wife, his boss, or another coworker who was taking credit for his work.

He decided to try mindful speech. If he were able to determine that his opinion was true, kind and necessary before he decided to speak, then it could certainly not be said that he was not being “a nice person”. Instead, he would be honest, kind and forthright!

Bob tried this tactic for about a week before he could feel a tremendous weight lifting off his shoulders.

Instead of feeling angry or resentful toward people with whom he had previously avoided conflict, he found that he was able to ensure that his feelings were heard before he could harbor ill will. He learned that this healthy dose of self-assertion early on was a simple step toward avoiding arguments later on. It kept little problems from growing out of proportion.

Through the principle of mindful speech he had found a way to be both assertive and a nice person.

Finding a balance

The struggle to still be a nice person and assert yourself is a fine balance. The key is to learn how to find strength in the opposition, such as the outstretched arms and foot in Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) pose.

In Warrior 3, the core supports your spine and keeps it long. Without an understanding of your gut feelings and instincts, you are not able to ascertain if your words are true or necessary. Without strength in your spine, you would be unable to keep the back flat and neutral. (Notice that you are by no means spineless!)

The standing leg provides strength and stability, while the raised leg acts as a counterweight for your upper body. This is the kindness and honesty for you to stand on – sure that what you are saying will keep you upright.

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