Relationships can sometimes be tricky, whether they’re with romantic partners, best friends, coworkers, or family members. But when you bring spiritual tools into the mix, you can smooth out negotiations and strengthen connections. Suzan Colón, author of YOGA MIND: JOURNEY BEYOND THE PHYSICAL, shares three Yoga tools that can help your relationships become stronger.
For the past 25 years, I’ve been studying Yoga—not just the physical poses, but Yoga’s spiritual tools for happiness, freedom from habitual potholes, mindfulness, and stress reduction. We don’t live on the yoga mat; Yoga, the philosophy and principles, was meant to help us become more graceful and flexible in our relationships with everyone around us, and with ourselves. When it comes to dealing with the people we’re closest to, from spouse to coworker and everyone in between, here are the three tools I’ve found most useful. They keep me in Yoga Mind, a mental space of calm, loving clarity.
Satya, or Truth.
In Sanskrit, Satya means truth. In Western culture, we’re taught that “honesty is the best policy.” Sometimes, especially when we’re angry, we take this to mean brutal honesty, the kind that can be used as a blunt instrument. This doesn’t do a lot for relationships, other than cause hurt feelings.
Truth, through the lens of Yoga, comes enhanced with a vital component: compassion. In political and legal arenas, truth should come as clean and clear as possible, but when we’re dealing with people we care about, truth coupled with compassion is delivered with love. Then the message doesn’t get lost in harsh delivery, and your honesty is at its most useful, leading toward positive change.
Asteya, or Non-Stealing.
When the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali were written thousands of years ago in India, the principle we know as “thou shalt not steal” may have been written about personal property, such as not making off with your neighbor’s amazing herd of cows. But maybe Patanjali, in his wisdom, had relationship issues in mind too.
In Yoga, the idea of not stealing extends beyond material things and into the realm of attention, time, and being present. When someone is habitually late, you could say they’re stealing time from the person they’re supposed to meet. If someone dominates the conversation at dinner, they’re stealing all the attention, rather than sharing it equally with others. With this perspective on not stealing, we can work toward the opposite: a spiritual generosity that acknowledges and cares for others. We’re on time (barring circumstances beyond our control). We put the phone away at the table and share our full attention with our companions. We give them time to speak, and we listen. Your attention is a gift beyond comparison.
Maitri, or Kindness.
In this world of shouting, both virtual and in real life, kindness has become a highly undervalued commodity. The effect of kindness is so profound it can be felt in your body. Notice how you feel when someone posts something mean on social media. Then notice your reaction to a video of someone being kind to a child or animal. The feeling is so uplifting it’s magical.
You can have that magical effect on someone just by being kind. Maitri, or kindness, requires only one thing: being present. When you’re present, you notice things that might otherwise be obscured by thoughts about yourself. You may see that your partner is afraid during the fight you’re having. You may notice that your best friend isn’t herself, or that your boss is really on edge. Being present and aware to others opens the door to our natural inclination to extend kindness, rather than slamming the door shut against unpleasant feelings. Kindness is a form of bravery—it takes a lot to step outside ourselves and all the layers of protection we wrap the ego in, and think about others.
And it’s so worth it. In being kind, as well as compassionately honest and spiritually generous, our relationships are richer and have greater depth. More love is generated, and even when it’s time for a relationship to end, it’s released with respect rather than severed. When we use the spiritual tools of Yoga and cultivate a Yoga Mind, we get to experience the sweet irony of love: by giving, we receive the gifts.