One of my qigong teacher’s favorite words of advice is “No wishy-washy,” which, in his German-Indian accent comes out as “No vishy-vashy.” At the end of each qigong session, as each of us stands breathing quietly with our hands folded over our tan t’ien (our center or core), he scans the room, making eye contact with each of us while wagging a resolute index finger finger and kindly exhorting us to speak and act in a way that embodies forthrightness, directness, and honesty, while at the same time being imbued with compassion and love. “No vishy-vashy,” he reminds us.

Reflecting on this principle has revealed to me just how often I get tangled up in vishy-vashiness. I see how often I approach conversations and situations as a constantly evolving field test, of the kind that the Army or Navy might concoct to train soldiers. I analyze the situation and imagine multiple options for responding and the likely effects of each. And then, after selecting a course of action I may indulge in a round of second- or even third-guessing — either simultaneously or after the fact. This kind of scenario analysis can sometimes take a considerable amount of time, during which I end up just being silent. (Hopefully I at least remember to smile.)

This doesn’t mean that my goal is to be tactical or strategic; usually my purpose is simply to be kind — optimally kind, in fact. And I think there is some value in being somewhat circumspect: surely it is better to temporarily annoy someone with awkward silence than to say or do something unskillful that may result in anger, confusion, resentment, or blame.

Yet, as my teacher reminds me, “No vishy-vashy” (wag, wag, wag). True communication comes from the heart, from our core being. That is the way to be truly kind, truly loving. That is the way to be truly responsive to life as it unfolds in each moment.

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