Being truthful is a fierce practice. Truth has the power to right wrongs. It demands integrity to life and to our own self. Being untruthful is so much more than telling a simple lie. Satya, the Sanskrit translation for being truthful in one’s thoughts, speech and actions, forces us to choose truth over just being nice, thus picking growth over the need to belong.
Satya is part of the ethical practice of yoga. The practice of yoga encompasses your physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual self. There are 5 Yamas (a Sanskrit word) as part of this practice, in translation meaning restraints. These restraints don’t limit us from living life, rather they begin to open life up to us more and more fully in ways that are practical and easy to understand. The second Yama is Satya, meaning truth. To understand Satya as one of the Yamas, it is important to know that it comes after Ahimsa by design. The Yamas are not mutually exclusive, they are interdependent and there is an element of hierarchical balance between them. In that hierarchy, Ahimsa (non-violence or kindness) always comes first.
Why do we lie?
What is so dangerous in the moment that you are choosing to lie?Carl Jung
Are we afraid to hurt someone’s feelings? Do we fear we may not belong? Are we worried if we told the truth we may not be liked or admired by someone anymore? There is a distortion between being nice and being real. Being nice is the pretty package we think we need to show up as. The person we need to present ourselves as in certain company. Always being nice requires us to hold in our truth until we can’t take it anymore and we break. And when we break, our actions and comments can be borderline inappropriate.
Being real, on the other hand, comes from our true essence. Real invites us to come from a place where we have nothing to defend or nothing to manage. And we may experience realness in another as uncomfortable or unpleasant, but it is trustworthy. You know this energy in others. The willingness to be raw with reality in each moment creates a certain kind of courage and boldness within. There is an undeniable depth of trust to this kind of integrity.
The Truth about Living in Self-Expression
We are all unique. We all have some part of us that shows up in this world wanting to scream, “Here I am!” And along our journey in life we have been influenced by all kinds of voices, especially our own. When those influences are should and should nots we begin to get a little quieter.
Therefore, we start to settle for things instead of living from vitality. Our inner light becomes dim over time and we begin to hide…and fade. This can create unhealthy behaviors. Some of us hide behind food, overworking, over stimulation or disconnection. Our energy starts to get consumed by pretending. When we our living in our truth of self-expression we are living in flow with our vital energy. Satya allows us to feel alive and that energy impacts everyone around us.
The Need to Belong Versus the Need to Grow
Belonging feels safe. We belong to many groups: our country, culture, gender, age, race, religion, workplace and all of the organizations we are part of. Each of these groups has a certain set of rules and belief systems (some written and some just understood). These rules and belief systems are necessary. They are what shape the group and give it it’s identity and guidelines. However, when there is a conflict, we will be faced to make a decision: sacrifice a part of ourselves to remain in the group or risk the approval of the group by standing in our truth. The practice of Satya can feel unsafe or uneasy as it invites us to explore the unknown and show up in unfamiliar places.
Examples where Satya doesn’t feel safe but it is an important practice.
There are many instances where this shows up for us. Think of the working father who supports his family and does not like his job. Will he decide to pursue what brings him joy and risk not being able to support his family in the way that they are used to or will he sacrifice his happiness to keep the peace for others? What about the person that feels betrayed by their partner? Will they risk sharing these feelings and jeopardizing their partnership or stay quiet because they so desperately want to be in a relationship? And how about the young adult who doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of their parents and go to college? Will they take the risk to listen to what truly calls them or make the decision to make their parents happy and live a life that is not aligned with their own truth?
In all of these cases there is no wrong or right answer. Merely deciding to listen to our inner voice and whether or not we will follow the path of our own truth. The practice of Satya can be a high price to pay in some instances. Often, we turn outside of ourselves when we don’t know what to do. In fact, we often know what to do but we may fear sacrificing our truth because there are other factors present pulling us away from being real. Truth rarely seems to ask the easier choice from us. It is the daily moments and details in those moments that truth asks us to pay attention to so we can move in the direction that serves us the first time.
What if we listened to our truth the first time?
“It is worth the effort to do the task right the first time, because cleanup takes so much time.”Yogiraj Achala
How much time do you spend having to apologize to someone you may have been angry with? Or go back and tell someone you can’t commit to what you said you could do? Or maybe you spend time avoiding others because of embarrassment? Imagine if you didn’t have to tend to such things because you handled it the first time in truth. What about avoiding the things you don’t want to do? Making a retirement plan, paying off debt or writing a will. These are all examples of cheating the truth and will result in having to go back and clean up the mess later.
What about the relationship you have with yourself? Are you honest with yourself? Do you make promises to yourself that are not manageable because you don’t allow for rest or play in your life? If we know we are capable of lying, we lose the ability to trust ourselves and our instincts. This creates imbalance and doubt within.
Kindness and the Truth
Showing up in our truth looks different each time. It will change with each new circumstance. Sometimes the truth is bold and courageous. For example, maybe in the way we may show up for a loved one who is struggling with addiction or dangerous behaviors. The truth can also show up gently in the way we may praise a friend for working hard and not giving up. Combining the compassionate practice of non-violence (Ahimsa, the first Yama) with the truth we can be sure we are not using the truth as a personal weapon. The practice of Satya comes from a place of love. We want to deliver the truth with love and kindness.
A Satya Practice for You
The practice of Satya requires us to create a little bit of space, stillness or at least some slowing-down of the mind. Ask yourself these 4 questions before expressing your truth:
- Are they true? Our words must be spoken with intention and clarity. A lie, no matter how trivial, disconnects us from higher consciousness and creates an entry point for self-doubt.
- Are they necessary? Bring awareness to whether or not your words add value or if it is time to be a listener.
- Is it the right time? Understand whether the person you are speaking to is ready to receive your words. Be patient if the timing isn’t right, your message will land most gently when it is.
- Are they kind? If being honest in a particular moment is likely to cause harm to another, then it is best not to say or do anything at all in that moment.
Take time for reflection to invite new insights into your life as you practice living in your true essence. There is a great freedom in being able to melt away the layers that keep us hidden in untruths.