The elections are upon us and that’s got me thinking about Satya, or Truthfulness. Satya is one of the yamas (yokes or restraints) in yoga philosophy. The yamas give us guidelines for right living, showing us ways to look at how we treat both ourselves and others in our world. Politics seems to be a Satya-free zone these days!
So I don’t really want to try to tackle truth in politics… it’s just too big for me. But I think we really can’t begin to work deeply with embracing truthfulness as a personal practice until we understand the profound importance of being truthful with ourselves first and foremost. Without allowing ourselves to see our own motivations and habitual reactions to life, we will always “tell the truth” through the filter of what we cannot or are not willing to see clearly. This filter of “not seeing” prevents us from knowing ourselves for who we are. I guess this is why they say “the truth hurts”… it isn’t always easy to face something that is uncomfortable and that’s why we choose to look away and not see. If we are continually willing to blame our discomforts or dissatisfactions on the behaviors of others or something outside ourselves, we will find ourselves stuck in a loop of “untruth” or wrong perceptions and never learn what it is to be our authentic self.
What do we mean when we talk about the elusive “authentic self”? The definition of authentic: of undisputed origin; genuine; trustworthy, reliable, dependable. The word origin really resonates with me, as it is the origin of our thoughts that create the habits of our behaviors that become our personality. Then it seems that when we are “honest” with ourselves at a core level, the side effects of practicing this honesty are that we become trustworthy, we learn to depend on ourselves and find a reliability within us that allows us to make good choices. We treat ourselves as we would treat someone we trust and we treat others in the same ways.
Yogi Michael Stone says this:” In order to be truly free, you must desire to know the truth more than you want to feel good… Given the choice, anyone would choose to feel bliss rather than sorrow. It simply means that if the desire to feel good is stronger than the yearning to see, know and experience reality honestly, then this desire will always be distorting the perception of what is real while corrupting one’s deepest integrity.”
I’m the first to admit that facing a truth sometimes requires more of ourselves than we think we can bear. I have experienced this hand-to-hand combat with truth for myself. When the truth is too hard to bear, the method of choice is often avoidance. I’ve observed times in my life when I would get just a scent of the pain in store for me, when facing an emerging truth and have found the most surprising ways of retreating from that pain. Denial is the thing that lives in our heads as a means of protecting our hearts. It is also the thing that can keep us from experiencing clarity and therefore keep us from ultimately transforming our lives.
Yoga for me is my “fact-checker”. As I practice I am given many opportunities to see what is true. When I fall out of a balance posture 3 times in a row, I could try to blame the teacher, a slippery mat, distractions from the street… or whatever is convenient. But the simple truth is that today may not be my day for balance. In yoga we learn to be ok with that and take our truth as it unfolds moment to moment on the mat. Yoga can be humbling and it’s a brilliant opportunity to practice honesty on a smaller scale, so that we can take that practice into our lives and test out our practice of Satya in more and more meaningful ways.
Buddhist teacher Gil Fronsdal says this: “We can’t make ourselves humble- but we can make ourselves honest. Humility occurs when the love of truth is greater than the love of self.”
Why can’t we get more politicians on the mat?!! Yoga mat, that is!