Vishuddha, or the throat chakra, is the fifth primary chakra associated with the action of speaking and hearing. It is believed in the Hindu tradition of tantra that this chakra can become blocked by a sense of guilt, or the inability to speak from one’s own heart.
I sat in a throat chakra meditation session last Sunday. It was not the first time I had experienced this meditation technique, and the group discussion on truthfulness afterwards was very similar to the one my group had when I was first taught the same technique in my own teacher training. Perhaps it was the benefit of having gone through such a conversation before, this time, I felt like an outsider listening in on the things that were being said in the group, and I found myself having a rather strong viewpoint that’s different from what the rest were wrestling with.
“I’m forced to lie”
As the group talked about how many of us have to withhold truths not out of free will, but because of circumstance, I saw a pattern of how when we talk about why we lie, we always place the blame on the other person. It makes me uncomfortable, because it seems we have a problem with taking ownership of our lying. Instead of saying “he won’t be able to take the truth” or “it’s not like they will change even if I said anything”, if we frame it as “I don’t want to hurt his feelings” or “I’m too powerless to convince them to make any changes”, I feel that even though it seems we are still saying the same things, it puts the onus on ourselves. This might look trivial or perhaps look like just picking on semantics, but stay with me.
Only by first taking ownership can we even begin to find a resolution. By framing those statements with us as the subject, we find ourselves in control and being able find a position to take. From “I don’t want to hurt his feelings”, we start to find a way to break the news in a gentler way. From “I’m too powerless to convince them to make any changes”, we begin to recognise what steps we can take to make a stronger case.
I know it’s all easier said than done. In fact, one of the things that can be done is not to do anything at all. Finding peace with ourselves is also an action that can be taken. If we recognise that we are unable to change someone, a relationship or an organisation, but we can be at peace with ourselves, I think that’s a good outcome too. More often than not, we feel that we need to do something, which adds to our own suffering when we find that we are helpless.
What if we can’t find peace? Perhaps, the lie that we have to make is so devastating that it actually hurts another physically, emotionally or mentally. Luckily, I think most of us won’t find ourselves in such a terrible situation, but if we do, we must find a way to stop the lie or not contribute further to it. Some might say that if it involves our livelihood, it becomes harder to walk away. I can’t pretend to know how tough a situation that would be, but if the lie eats away at our conscience, then it really is not worth it to keep doing it. I wish all of us will be able to find the courage and the ability to extricate ourselves from such dilemmas.
“I’d rather be tactless than sugarcoat stuff”
Once we recognise that it’s better to be truthful than to lie, we may be tempted to infer that it’s better to be blunt and tactless than to hide the truth. Yes, the truth is always better, but I have a problem with thinking that just because we have to tell the truth, we have to be hurtful. A tactless, blunt, politically incorrect person does not necessarily equate a truthful, honest person. Take Donald Trump*, for example.
I believe we can be both honest and compassionate at the same time; they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I believe that when the truth is delivered with love and compassion for the person we are talking to, it will be more readily accepted. Of course, that’s not always the case. But, if we are truly doing this from a place of love, it may one day be accepted even if that day isn’t now, which brings us to the next point.
“I have to lie for his own good”
Changing ourselves is hard enough, so it’s no wonder why we become exasperated when we try to change someone else and end up finding that to be a thankless job.
When we feel that we want to make someone else accept our truths, we become angry when the other person doesn’t agree or change his views. Worse, we may employ tactics by telling white lies just to bend them towards our points of view. This is hardly trying to help the person from a place of love and compassion; rather, we need to be honest and see that it’s just another twisted way of asserting our egos and expectations on another. Nobody likes a holier-than-thou know-it-all telling us what to do, so why should we inflict that on anyone. We may be sharing good advice, but that should be all we need to do–share. We need to expect that the person may not agree, or that the time is just not right for the person to see things our way. By giving space and continuing to show love and compassion, I believe one day we may be able to help the other person, no matter how far down the road that may be.
Truthfulness is a topic fraught with subjectivity. If all else fails, I’d hope that we can all find the strength to approach it with love, always. Because I still believe that with love, nothing can go absolutely wrong.
Photo credit: Zach Guinta
* When I started writing this post, the US presidential election was still a few days away, and I was still blissfully unaware of the shocking result that would befall us today.