February 7, 2012

Harmless Gossip or Harmful Slander?

There is no shortage of gossip and slander weaving its way through our society. The latest celebrity breakdown, sports scandal and more recently perpetuating into the yoga world at various levels. Whether we admit it or not gossip plays a role in most of our lives. For reasons unique to each individual these bits of chatter resonate within us and we can find it hard to keep inside choosing instead to lengthen the trail of gossip and even moving into slander. It can be easier to do this still with people we don’t know, hence the rapid fire spread of celebrity gossip and even television shows and magazines dedicated to it. Would so many of these celebrities be celebrities if we didn’t have gossip or slander? Seriosuly, who are Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton? Total products of this aspect of our society. Nevertheless, if we don’t know the person does this verbal flood still mean anything?

The definition of gossip is a rumor or report of an intimate nature, while the definition of slander is the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation. Quite a difference there and while it may seem that slander is of a much more deviant nature, gossip can be equally as damaging.  As it spreads it gains momentum and even with no intention of damaging another it often does.

With the most recent scandal of a few days ago rocking the yoga world and the decision by many, including elephant journal, to not publish it got me thinking. What are we really doing with all the talk and what role does it play in our lives?

Admittedly when I first received a text from a friend regarding this juicy information I jumped to check it out.  I then hopped over to elephant journal to see how it was exploding there and was surprised to find a gaping void. Why hadn’t this broken here yet? What was going on? I could have chosen to write something up and hit “publish,” and I often do, dropping whatever else I’m doing to get the latest out there.  his scandal even resonated with me as I had funny vibes about the individual named when I took a workshop with him, actually leaving early because of it. However for reasons unbeknown to be I didn’t. At the time I didn’t think much of it, e-mailing one of the other staff to see if they had seen what was going on and indicating that maybe someone should write about it, just not me. In retrospect I was listening to my body and my mind. It knew this wasn’t right to write about at this time.

I went to the yoga texts to look more into this and went to the yamas, which are the five restraints which are suggestions about how to show up in our lives in order to facilitate a journey to a high consciousness. The yamas of Ahimsa, Satya, and Aparagraha resonated with me here in relation to gossip and slander.

Ahmisa or non-violence. This refers to non-violence is all aspects of our lives, showing up in what we eat, how we act towards ourselves and how we act towards others. Spreading gossip or slander definitely violates this. Is there a satisfaction that comes with spreading these idle words?  How does it really serve us in our life? I would argue that it doesn’t at all.

Satya or truth. This applies in spread words and ideas that we don’t know to be true. Lying without knowing we are lying and lying to ourselves about how this gossip resonates within. Often the gossip and slander that seems important to us is symbolic of something that really is within ourselves. What sticks with us on the outside is simply a mirror of what lies within, both consciously and unconsciously. Perhaps this is something to consider the next time an opportunity to perpetuate what we don’t know to be truth comes our way.

Aparagraha or non-attachment. This has several connotations but in terms of gossip and slander and is the non-attachment to what isn’t ours. Most of these stories have nothing to do with us. Indeed we may not even know the individuals about whom we are talking. Again for what reason does it seem so important here to continue the spread of false truth?  To hang onto these external attachments means to create less space for us to manifest to full consciousness in our own lives.

We all deviate from these yamas, some more than others, and I am not an exception. We do however have a choice in this. We can go left, right, or find the middle way. Perhaps it is time to think a bit more before we open our mouths or hit publish.  


Photo Credits: skinnyvscurvy.com, authentic-self.com

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