Thank you all for your wonderful feedback, reflections, and ideas about last month’s mention of the Four Virtues.  If you didn’t catch the last Messenger, the Four Virtues are one of the key teachings in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a powerful text informing the practice of yoga.  The Four Virtues are:

The Four Virtues
1.    Friendliness toward the happy
2.    Compassion toward the unhappy
3.    Delight in the virtuous
4.    Indifference towards the wicked

A few of you found the idea of ‘the wicked’ humorous (as do I) but although the word ‘wicked’ has a different meaning for me, being a child of the 70’s, I was loath to make a change to the translation.  But, let me offer a few ideas now on what ‘wicked’ might mean in the Sutras; it might refer to the immoral, unethical, harmful, critical, judgemental, ignorant, and (is this just my stuff?) those who offer unsolicited and uniformed advice.

And, on that last one, this is an area where I have struggled to maintain indifference.  For some reason, I have a strong intolerance for unsolicited advice (not my own, of course) even though I know that it most often comes from a place of caring and wishing to help.  I struggled, that is, until a very wise woman gave me a technique that has helped me to – if not embrace unsolicited advice – at least not become so perturbed by it.

Her technique is simple – Listen, Agree, Ignore.  When someone offers unwanted critique, judgement, unsolicited advice, or one of those sneaky sounds-like-a-compliment-but-is-really-a-criticism gifts, you listen carefully (there could be something worth hearing, after all), agree (oh, you might be right about that), and then move on (change the subject, walk away, start a new and more positive exchange).  And, for me, this is the real practice – to move on.  To walk away without holding a grudge, playing the conversation out in my head over and over until I ‘win’, or turning back and adding fuel to the harmful fire.

This practice has been such a help to me in minimizing the mental dramas I play out in my head.  It has helped me to listen to people without rushing to my defence before they are finished speaking.  And, it has helped me to see that so many of the exchanges that I once assumed were judgement, were really just someone wanting to be a part of my life.

As the holiday season approaches, many of us will find ourselves in the midst of family; family who are helpful, concerned, caring and passionate about their new (enter here: diet, dog training book, exercise regime, dating site, skin care regime, kitchen appliance etc), and you might find yourself feeling criticized, judged, and force-fed heaps of unsolicited advice.  Rather than having to defend yourself, or worse yet waiting until old Aunt Agnes is gone and gossiping about her relentlessly, why not try the Listen, Agree, Ignore technique and see if this can help you to be present with your families whilst maintaining your practice of that fourth virtue of indifference towards to wicked, or perhaps better said, unperturbed by the overly suggestive?

The practice and experience of this virtue could be the best gift you could give yourself this Christmas.

Wishing you all much joy, peace, and imperturbability this holiday season!

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