By Faye Martins
The Four Gateways of Speech are four incisive questions that are considered prior to engaging in conversation. This contemplative spiritual practice has its origins in Sufi tradition. As we consider whether or not what we are going to express is true, necessary, kind and appropriately timed, we are able to decide if we should proceed in initiating such a conversation.
These four questions can be beautifully woven into other Yogic practices that are ultimately intended to create and sustain physical health and clear and quiet the mind. As we take a moment to pause and consider the Four Gateways of Speech, we are afforded the opportunity to evaluate whether or not initiating our intended conversation will uplift our own spirits as well as the hearts of those with whom we spend time.
In order to determine if an intended conversation is kind, we first must determine what is kind. This can be a bit tricky. Ultimately what is kind will be enlivening, uplifting and healing. The information must also be delivered at an appropriate time in order to be heard by the recipient. An appropriate time may refer to the time of day, the day of the week or the time period in a person’s life.
A classic example is that of an individual who becomes aware that their friend’s spouse is having a clandestine affair. It can be a huge quandary whether or not if it is in your friend’s best interest to know about the affair. In this situation, you must judge very carefully the necessity of sharing such information with your friend and the consequences of both sharing your knowledge of the affair or not sharing it. It is wise to consider which path will lead to the most freedom, peace and well-being, in both the short-run and the long-run, for your friend.
In terms of teaching Yoga, you may find yourself in a position where you must judge whether or not it is in a student’s best interest to critique his or her Yoga practice. This could be relevant to a student’s attitude towards Yoga overall or specific only to his or her practice of one of two asanas. According to the Four Gateways of Speech, you must determine the truth of what you are relaying, the necessity and timing of your critique, and if your comments are ultimately going to uplift and encourage your student.
For example, maybe you are annoyed that a student continuously comes fifteen minutes late to class. Gently letting your student know that it is not only disrupting to the class, but consistent lateness also prevents him or her from warming up adequately before performing more strenuous Yoga poses. In this case, relaying the importance of coming to class on time in a kind, appropriate and compassionate manner will ultimately support your student in excelling in his or her Yoga practice.
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