In the last post I talked about the Yamas, a series of restraints or “what not to do,” taken from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The second of the five Yamas is Satya. Broken down to basics it means do not lie. Last weekend I attended a session taught by Seane Corn at the Yoga Journal Conference in Hollywood. The topic was the throat chakra. It strikes me how connected this chakra is with telling the truth and how when this area is blocked, it can be difficult to maintain Satya.
A friend asks you to get together for a glass of wine, and you really don’t want to, you’re not drinking alcohol lately, but you say yes, because you really like this friend and don’t want to disappoint him. You sacrifice your personal truth. People in your circles take for granted that you are vegan, and though you are not, you don’t correct them. A friend offers you a professional service you are not interested in, and rather than tell her directly, you put her off with a “someday, maybe” sort of reply. You nod along and act like you’ve completed reading a book everyone is talking about, when you haven’t.
Why do we lie, either directly or by omission? Because we are afraid. We want people to like us. We want to come across as cool or smart. In other cases we are scared of eliciting disappointment or hostility in others. Sometimes it just seems easier. As children, many of us were taught not to speak our truth. We would see adults around us doing questionable things, but the unwritten rule was… don’t mention it. Don’t upset the apple cart. Don’t get anyone mad.
As we grow older, we get busy, and buried in so many responsibilities, we sometimes lose track of what exactly is our truth? If I love dancing, why have I not done it in so many years? Or, why am I holding onto a career that no longer aligns with my values? What in my heart of hearts do I want to be doing with my life? Do I dare ask? Do I dare listen for a response? One of the questions Seane Corn asked during the workshop was how are we letting our fear, our inability to speak up, limit what we came to this world to do? She called for courage, and asked how we justify wasting our Divinely given gifts, merely because we are afraid to speak?
A first step toward practicing Satya might be just noticing when we lie. Why did I say yes when I wanted to say no? Isn’t that interesting? Being inquisitive. Not beating ourselves up for it, but noting it. A second step might be speaking our truth about the little things. “I’m not really drinking wine right now, but would love to get together for a cup of tea.” (For me personally, if I’m being truly honest, I’d rather have coffee). Being present, observing ourselves without judgement, practicing on the little lies, building our muscles, so we can be strong when it really matters.
The fact is some people will not like us when we speak our truth. Sometimes even if we try to be kind in speaking our truth, others will feel put off or hurt. But even as that happens, we are giving those same people permission to tell their own truth, and hopefully modeling for them a way of doing it with kindness and respect. It’s a beautiful thing to witness a really skilled teacher tell their truth or confront a difficult moment. Almost always the situation de-escalates when one speaks truthfully from their heart. Especially if they admit their own fears, and don’t blame others for their discomfort.
On the yoga mat, we can explore Satya by asking ourselves what our truth is in each moment. In this sequence, does it make sense for me to take a cobra or an up-dog? What is my body asking for? Am I doing up-dog out of ego? Am I pushing myself too hard? Am I not pushing myself enough?
And truth doesn’t have to mean making drastic changes in your life. The truth is sometimes I am resentful while making dinner and doing other household chores for my family. The truth is I have a choice. I may need to feed my family. That is not something I am willing to walk away from, but I can change my attitude by focusing on how fortunate we are to have healthy food. I can marvel at modern appliances. I can become one with the meal prep. Or, I can say, I’m not doing it tonight. The truth is, I need a break, so we are having cereal or PB & J.
Keeping the concept of Satya in the forefront of our minds is a beautiful opportunity to look at our habits as we go forward, to catch ourselves in our own lies, to question them and make changes. To stop long enough to explore what our truth actually is, moment to moment. The concept of Satya may seem daunting, but fortunately as with all yoga, done consistently over time, it becomes easier.
It requires presence and introspection. And it requires being brave enough to speak.