Saturday, May 8, 2010

Brutal Truth = Hurt Feelings - A Hard Lesson to Learn

Truth is a slippery thing if it's not wielded safely. Some people subscribe to the belief that all truth is good truth, but most of us know that sometimes truth can be harmful and mean.

Ken Nelson, a facilitator at our most recent Kripalu workshop, framed truth beautifully. He said we should welcome useful truth, not brutal truth.

It's something I've been ruminating on for the last few months. In fact, I've been chewing on a lot of concepts lately thanks to Stephen Cope's "The Wisdom of Yoga" and a series of other yoga-based texts.

Today offered me the chance to witness myself exercising brutal truth and it led to hurt feelings and guilt. Oh the discomfort of seeing myself as I am in all of my glorious imperfections...


Over the last several days I've been challenged with a pet peeve of mine via a dear, dear friend. Regardless of what it is, I was faced with a situation that left me uncomfortable, agitated, and in judgment.

Leaving one of my yoga classes, I was mulling over how to handle this situation. Should I start an honest but gentle conversation with this person or would that cause unnecessary drama? Should I accept that my friend just does this and let it go (who's to say what someone should or shouldn't do - I'm not anyone's boss, right)? I wasn't sure what the honest and compassionate path saying something "useful" truth or is it "brutal"? Is not saying something skirting honesty for the sake of avoiding something uncomfortable? I really had no idea.

A while later, my friend and I were discussing things we were trying to work on and I literally felt myself step away from my body and witness myself rudely and bluntly say something like "You're famous for talking while someone else is talking and I'm trying to listen to them. You do it all the time and it can be kind of rude."

Internally, my jaw dropped.

Talk about brutal truth. I was surprised at how this judgmental declaration just came tumbling out.

My friend is painfully transparent. Every emotion & thought flashes across her face and I saw that I'd hurt her (not my goal by any stretch) and really, these minor irritants just weren't THAT important to me. Not if this was the price.

I felt guilty. She closed down and remained guarded for much of the morning. I don't blame her, either. It was rude and unnecessary of me to blurt out an uninvited observation.

I wanted to apologize to her and discuss my behavior, but Ego stepped in and instead I kept quiet.

On my long drive home, I marinated on everything.

Brutal truth had exploded from me in an instant - completely unplanned and unscripted; the antithesis of how I'd envisioned handling the situation.

The last thing I want to do is use brutal truth, especially if it leads to hurting people I love and value.

What was I doing to myself? Was I this insensitive or was something deeper going on? This kind of truth served no one but myself - and that means it was anything but useful.


Stephen Cope writes about the power of getting in touch with your inner Witness or your inner soul/truth. Witness does not judge, does not decide right or simply observes and sees things as they are (instead of how Ego and Puppy Mind WANT us to see them which is OUR way or the highway).

I'm certainly not a master meditator or a wise yogi, so experiencing this Witness was a major event for me. Though admittedly, it's difficult to reflect on this kind of insight without sitting in judgment of myself.

As I think about my use of brutal truth, I see that it's something I've used in the past on a number of occasions.

Typically, it rears its ugly head when I'm judging someone I care about and I'm not sure how to communicate my thoughts without seeming rude...and then brutal truth comes blurting out in my desperation to be heard. Basically, it's all about me sometimes and that's when I cross a line from compassionate to self-serving.

It's difficult to learn these things about myself. I see how I've hurt people I care about because of a discomfort within myself that gets projected...

But, today I'm thankful for this insight. I'm thankful to the Witness for showing me a glimpse of something I need to think about and bring awareness to. I'm thankful to yoga for giving me the tools to self-reflect without putting myself down or questioning my heart and value.


Life lessons (especially those about yourself) aren't easy pills to swallow. As bumpy as the road may seem, each lesson teaches us something valuable that can lift us up and bring us closer to peace and serenity.

I suspect I have a few apologies to dole out and some hard work ahead of me.

But I'm simultaneously practicing self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-compassion. I cannot change overnight but I can put one foot in front of the other, mindfully, and see where I end up.

I cannot begin to describe how thankful I am to have yoga in my life...for the moments when I'm on the mat and I'm settling into myself and my truth and learning now to navigate this crazy world. Bringing this inner serenity into the outside world is a little more challenging, but I'm working on it. Because like all of us, I'm a beautiful work in progress.

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