Last night a friend asked me whether I preferred a friend who is smart and prickly, or a friend who is not so smart though very kind. This is a great question and begs other questions to be considered. Who is a friend on the path of Yoga? Are ‘smartness’ and ‘kindness’ mutually exclusive? Does ‘smart’ necessitate prickly, and ‘not so smart’ necessitate kindness?
To answer my friend’s question I took a moment to reflect on my experiences with friends to see and feel into what held more value for my life and my Yoga practice; smart with prickles, or not so smart with kindness. I considered her question for a moment and answered, “kindness coming from a not so smart friend trumps prickliness coming from a smart friend.”
No doubt, in the long-term scope, kindness outweighs prickliness in how it impacts my life, my behavior, my perceptions, and my responses for the better. That is, the times in life where I have been treated with authentic kindness have ‘left a mark’ so to speak that calls to a higher intelligence in the being.
Then I looked into the consideration a bit more.
Sometimes the kindest thing to do is to be firm, stern, or even put down a boundary between oneself and another because to not do so would allow unkind actions toward self and other to continue. I have seen that ‘prickly’ friends have at times pointed out something in my behaviors, perceptions, and responses, that brought to light something that could be worked on to better my life and the lives of those around me. As one spiritual master once said, “When you see a friend on the path with their head up their ass, don’t leave it there!”
A friend on the path of Yoga is one who is willing to be kind in all affairs, even those affairs that require firmness, resolve, and boundaries. It is totally possible and life affirming to maintain the heart of kindness in tough situations, like breaking off a relationship, or helping a friend take their head out of their ass, or giving someone the feedback that they have misbehaved or are out of line.
Kindness, when true and genuine is the heart of intelligence. One does not need to make intelligence and kindness mutually exclusive. In fact, the smarter someone is, the more it behooves them to be kind. Smart people do seem to be more often prickly. Maybe its because their powers of perception allow them to see more details of a person or situation and in their critical analysis, judgment and criticism follow easily. Maybe it is just their temperament and they couldn’t help but be prickly even if they were dim in wit. Either way, the focus of prickles is on being “right,” possibly and all too often at the cost of kind relations with others.
Less smart folks may seem to be more kind, though I might suggest that is because they are smart enough to know that being kind is more likely to render the life circumstances they seek than being a jerk.
In summation, I would like to point out that kindness is taught in Yoga to offset the wrong view that as we refine ourselves through physical practice, study, meditation, diet, relationship, work etc. that it ought to be austere, hard, and punishing. Kindness works on the Universal principles of: energy follows attention, what goes in comes out, be the change you wish to see, and a long stream of wisdom statements that each in their own way encourage us to find it in our hearts to be kind to self and other.
By Brent Kuecker: Yogi. Musician. Educator.
Practice kindness with your friends by joining us at Udaya Live this summer in Borovets, Bulgaria and experience the hospitality and graciousness of the Udaya family.