All nature loves an honest person.
~The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Satya, truthfulness, is the second of the five yamas outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Following ahimsa (non-violence) in the ethical and moral practices of yoga, Satya asks us to live a life of integrity in the way we think, act and speak. Satya asks us to engage with things not as wethink they are, but as they actually are. Satya asks us to move forward in our lives with integrity while keeping the principle of ahimsa in mind. When we can view the truth through the lens of compassion, we can present that truth in a way that is as non-harming as possible.
Most of us would say we’re honest people, right? If we look a little closer at our conversations with others and the things we quietly hide from others, we start to gain a more nuanced understanding of the reasons we bend the truth or don’t show our true selves to those we love.
So why don’t we always tell the truth?
Many of us have the tendency to fall back on nice instead of being real.
Think about this: would you consider yourself to be a nice person? Are you not being truthful in your life because of worry about what others might think or worry about hurting someone? We often tell small lies in an effort to not hurt feelings or to present a certain aspect of ourselves to the world. When we center ourselves in our own integrity, we can move forward from a place of a deeper expression of truthfulness. When we do this from a place of compassion and non-harming, the truth can often be a shining light. However, we must always ask ourselves whether telling the truth would cause more harm and to be mindful of what we have to say. It is better to remain silent than it is to tell a harsh or cruel truth. Is what we have to say true, useful, necessary and kind? If not, it is best to say nothing at all. Are we telling the truth and inadvertently hurting someone? Are we telling the truth in the least harmful way?
Another reason we might hesitate around telling the truth is our deep need to belong.
When our own truth goes against what it takes to belong in a community the results can cause discord within our community. For example, I have many friends who grew up within a religion only to, as they grew and could decide for themselves, understood that the religion they grew up in wasn’t correct for them and their beliefs and values any longer. Recognizing their own truth and real-ness caused them to make the often painful decision to break from these communities. For some of my friends, the sense of belonging to these communities was more important than voicing their own truth.
A magical thing can happen when we are more truthful with ourselves and others: we show up.
We show up in the moment, ready to move forward in truth and integrity, and others start to recognize this in us. It’s refreshing, and the truth begins to feel more powerful. Our time on the yoga mat helps us come into contact with our own truths in our body, and therefore helps us unpack some of the deeper stories that we tell ourselves. Constant reengagement with the process of understanding truth is important as truth is fluid. We periodically need to get a fresh perspective on what we view as truth. Our seeing is limited by our own perspective, the groups that shape us and our experience. We must constantly be willing to reexamine our views and the stories we create about our lives. Every time we get on the yoga mat we have an opportunity to understand ourselves and others a little more.
Two ideas for deeper exploration:
- Observe situations in which you are “real” versus “nice” and notice the difference between the results of the two.
- Look at ideas and values that you hold to be true and no longer serve you. You may be unconsciously holding on to things that you no longer need.