Want Freedom?: Satya, or Telling the Truth

(continuing the study of Yamas/Niyamas)

The practice of coming into truth- of Truth Telling- isn’t as simple as it sounds. There are layers to this- from Outer Truth, to Inner truth, to the Ultimate Truth- all of which play a role in creating a life of ease and freedom and connectedness.

Outer Truth- This is the old fashioned “honesty” kind of truth- stating that which is factual, intending not to lie. However, we all have lenses and viewpoints that color perceptions- so how do you actually know what is true- not “spun” or positioned? This is the kind of honesty you were taught as a kid. But we’re also taught throughout our lives in subtle and not so subtle ways that speaking truth can beget punishments of all forms: the withdrawal of love, or of favor- maybe just for holding a belief or acting in a way that others don’t approve of- or it could be solely driven from ego- we lie so as not to miss out on prizes that we really want. It may even come from a desire for freedom- not to be accountable to anyone else. So over time, we may begin to lie, or withhold, not of malice, but from self-protection or pure self-interest- and these untruths build up, they layer on and become blocks to our own evolution, and blocks to connection or intimacy with ourselves and others. The conscious practice of Satya can play a role in becoming free.

Inner Truth- This is the truth we call in our house “taking your seat”: before you speak, or when you are feeling confused, you find your center, go inward, and come into a deep knowing of who you are, what you feel, think, and hold true- and then you act from that place- even when it is not condoned by society (the small society, like your own family, or the larger society). For example, my husband John once told me that he has always tried to please people, and felt that if he ever REALLY told the truth, the world would break open. Yet every time he does, he is more free, and his relationships get deeper and more real. There were times when he was punished for truth telling, but through his practice, that becomes less important than being real with himself- held together at the center, at the core.

The Ultimate Truth– Oh, the suffering that would be relieved if we all walked in the awareness everyday of the ultimate truth- the knowing beyond knowing, where there is no judgment, there just is. Where each step is taken with the conscious awareness of impermanence and permanence, perfection and imperfection- all things in one. If you faced the world with this level of Satya- the present knowledge of life and death, of everyone being made of the same stuff, the same breath and sun nourishing the each of us- how would this color your “truth”- would the false divisions we erect still be true?

The great metaphysical philosopher Alan Watts wrote about “scale” or “field of vision” as a determinant in what we perceive to be true. The same scene viewed with the Naked Eye, a microscope or a telescope are all True, but what you see through those lenses will be vastly different.

Telling the Truth on the Mat: Satya in Asana

A teacher once told me that how you react on the mat is how you will react off the mat. So here are some questions to consider on the mat that may shed light on truth telling in your own practice:

What stories are you telling yourself while you are practicing? What is your internal mantra or language? What’s your perceptual filter? How does your asana help you settle into awareness to become conscious of your inner truth? Have you ever had a moment on the mat where a realization of a deep truth has met you head on? Where in your practice are you pretending, holding on, struggling, competing? What holds you back from being 100% truthful, going to your edge when you need it, backing off when you need it? Where does your yoga live off the mat, and where do you lose that compassionate awareness you are cultivating in your practice? How do the postures serve your meditation, and how does that fit into Satya?

You can also do a practice of internal inventory this week- just looking at where you are wearing a mask and pretending and where you are at ease and free. Just notice, that’s a good place to begin again.

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