One of the interesting things about living on planet earth is the surprising number of human beings who are, well, jerks. Jerks can teach us a lot about yoga and ourselves! Planet earth is abundant in jerks because so many folks feel unloved, uncared for and unable to connect; it's the perfect recipe for creating people who are crabby, short tempered, and prone to saying thoughtless and hurtful things. Indeed, it seems we must all protect ourselves from the occasional phenomenon of being hateful. What can we humans do?!
Luckily, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a 2nd century B.C.E. text offers a bit of advice on the social scene of our species. Yoga sutra 1:33 states,
By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.
That's right! We don't have to invite jerks for tea, or take them out to lunch. To preserve our peace of mind we must disregard their behavior and cultivate compassion for the sadness that resides underneath their anger and bitterness. Disregarding the behavior of jerks doesn't mean we have to tolerate it without action. It does mean that we shouldn't get mentally caught in or stuck in improving their behavior, or even hoping it changes for the better.
Keep in mind that jerks help us to develop patience, perseverance, strength and gratitude. I've been working on boundaries lately and they give ample opportunity to practice setting boundaries as well. Think of jerks as your personal yoga trainers that are so dedicated they give you all their time for free.
What I love about Patanjali is that he asks that we get our social house in order before he even introduces us to the practices of yoga postures, meditation, breathing practices or even deep relaxation. We all know why too! It's incredibly time consuming to have a life filled with angry folks and drama queens. It's hard to find the car keys, much less peace and equanimity with all the disruption of jerks!
You may be thinking, "Oh no! If I keep up with this yoga business, I'll have no friends at all!" Patanjali's counteroffer is delight and happiness. Delighting in the good fortune of others exponentially increases your own happiness.
Happiness requires effort, steadiness and practice. It isn't an easy path. Wrong diet, challenging associations, and accumulated stress can sweep us off the path and we find ourselves once again struggling. Let's face it, it's easy to slide into an unhealthy relationship with ourselves and the world around us. It's challenging to add daily practices that keep us motivated, healthy, calm and focused.
Recover your identity as truth, knowledge and happiness! May you be grateful for the many jerks who are steadfast in their reminders that peace is no easy attainment. Next time you encounter a jerk, remember they're here to help you on your spiritual path! Give them a dose of gratitude, but don't invite them over for tea...it's just not a very yogic thing to do.
Pitta Jerks. Are self-righteous, angry, & critical. If they don’t have someone to criticize they will criticize themselves. They are prone to violence against others in word & deed.
Bring them out to ice cream, make them a mint tea, tell them they are smart & then ask them out for swimming. They'll want to go out drinking, but convince them you want a relaxing movie instead. If you’re a pitta jerk, the yoga practice for you is meditation! Try not complaining for a day. You'll want to do something athletic, but push yourself to engage in calming activities, like bird watching.
Kapha Jerks. Are depressed, lethargic, greedy, burdened and have difficulty getting motivated to make any change. They are prone to inaction, leaving others to take care of their needs. Bring them out for a brisk walk, give them a glass of celery, beet, apple juice and tell them that they are loveable just like they are. They'll want cookies, cake and chocolate, but convince them they want to exercise with you. If you’re a kapha jerk the yoga practice for you is pranayama! Try a vigorous round of kapalabhati!! You'll want to do something relaxing, but go kayaking instead.
Vata Jerks. Are hyper, have difficulty focusing, forget to eat, have high out of control emotions that fluctuate. They are prone to hurting themselves.Give them a long hug and tell them to take a hot bath. Make them a warm glass of vanilla saffron milk and them everything is okay. If you’re a vata jerk the yoga practice for you is chanting! Om shanti, om shanthi, om…You'll want to do everything while talking non-stop, but practice silence instead.