(picture found on pinterest, originally from here)
Satya = non-lieing = truthfulness
Satya is the second yama/guideline for social interaction laid out in the Yoga Sutras. We all know it’s not nice to tell a lie, but let’s dig a little deeper. Here are a few topics that may be challenging when it comes to the truth:
Yes, I’m going there first. It’s one of the most uncomfortable topics ever, and I personally hate to talk about it. So what to do when asked a question you’d rather not answer? This article on Yoga Journal addresses the issue in an honest way (hehe). Basically, being truthful doesn’t mean sharing your tax return or divulging your monthly finances but it does mean painting a picture that’s honest. For example, have you ever had a friend say they didn’t feel like hanging out and later you found out they actually couldn’t afford the restaurant you were suggesting (or maybe you’ve been the friend counting change). Back in my college days I remember more than a few times where certain friends treated me to dinner or a few rounds of bowling. It’s been a joy being able to return the favor. True friends tell each other the truth even when it’s uncomfortable, and it usually leads to more love and support than expected (at least if you have nice friends).
While on the topic of friendship, I think we’ve all had the bestie who’s dating the dud. So what do you say about him? Well here’s where it doesn’t hurt to say the truth in a nice gentle way. “I’m not sure he’s making you happy” is a lot less judgemental than some other choice words you might be thinking. Telling the truth doesn’t mean getting a license to say mean crap. My rule of thumb: I try to give my opinion as kindly as possible once or twice and after that I keep my mouth shut. Once I’ve told the truth there’s no reason to say it again.
When to skip the truth?
How about if it will cause more harm than good? For example, my beloved Yia Yia (Greek for grandma) was terminally ill with cancer. My cousin was supposed to be studying Spanish in Costa Rica for college credit. He hopped on the next plane home during her last few weeks. She asked about his class and he said he finished early. Perfectly acceptable lie (in my book) because the intention came from a place of love and non-harming. Plus the lie came from a place of higher truth: saying what’s in the heart. In his mind he was done. There was no possible way to concentrate on his studies when he could be by her side.
Denying the truth when it’s uncomfortable
Advertisers spend a lot of money to convince us to buy stuff we don’t need. The truth is that eating a lot of meat is damaging to the environment and it’s not healthy. The truth is that scientists have proven our bodies don’t need cow’s milk to build strong bones. The truth is sugary cereal does not make a nutritious breakfast for our children. Most of us know the truth but find it easier to push it away. A common thought is “I’d rather not know.” I’m guilty of this, especially when it comes to leather and fancy purses. Part of the yogi path is aligning your values with what you do everyday. By becoming an informed consumer, we’re able to make choices that speak our truth.
What are your thoughts on truth? When do you find it hard to tell the truth? How have you aligned your actions with your own truth? When is it ok to skip the truth?
I debated about writing those sentences about meat and milk in this post. I don’t want this to be a condescending blog that comes off as negative and judgemental. I deleted them so that things would be more cheerful. I thought about coming up with different examples for telling the truth when it’s uncomfortable. Then I realized that I’m being ridiculous. I’m not judging whether you eat meat or drink milk. I still eat desserts on brunch buffets, so who am I to say anything? Believe me that everything I write I apply to myself. Not to sound corny or anything, but life is a journey and we all get a learning curve. So please don’t think I’m accusing you of anything or that I want to boss anyone around. I’m just pondering the truth. And that really is the truth.