Satya or truthfulness is one of the yamas or restraints described in the Yoga Sutras, which guides us to think, speak, and act with integrity. The word sat means “that which exists, that which is.” Satya, is seeing and communicating things as they are, not as we wish them to be.
Satya means to be honest with what you have in body, speech, and mind.
Thich Nhaht Hanh, one of my favorite teachers, addresses truthful and loving speech in his mindfulness training. Number 9 really lands in my heart space.
“Aware that words can create suffering or happiness. I am committed to learning to speak truthfully and constructively. Using only words that inspire hope and confidence. I am determined not to say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people nor to utter words that may cause division or hatred. I will not spread news that I don’t know to be certain or criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure.”
I was recently moved to share something with a family member which created a lot of pain for them. It became a sort of selfish truthfulness. So I really reflected on this idea of becoming honest but also with more awareness of not creating harm. It takes true awareness and discernment in regards to when I discovered firsthand that not speaking or keeping our mouth shut can be an amazing form of violence or not violence. Speech is about the mouth and the ears though. We can actually practice good listening and zipping the lip especially if it creates harm. I’d like to think the precepts are like eyelashes. We see our worlds through our eyelids, but if we soften our gaze we are looking through our eyelashes. With our intentions and attention, we see the precepts as eyelashes and it impacts how we see things around us.
The deepest value of practice comes through our commitment to honesty. If you look at any of the other principles or precepts. If you look at nonviolence, greed, etc. It’s hard to enter them unless there is honesty at the base. Satya is the starting point and foundation for all.
In all of my readings, there are 3 levels of honesty that emerged. The first is the literal level. Don’t hurt, don't kill, and be kind to self. This means to start where you are and not to punish yourself even over the precepts. The Second level is the compassionate level and a gentler, softer level of ethics. For example; you can ask yourself, why am I speaking to myself this way? Why do I want to speak to someone this way? Why am I not looking at this honestly?
It’s a level of investigation. The final third principle is committing to a life that is honest by becoming honesty itself and living simply. It's an invitation to practice the impossible and enter the impossible and live in the interconnectedness of life with a commitment to be honest with oneself and with other people.
If you just have honesty and begin being honest with friends and family but it's tempered with our commitment to kindness and not creating harm. This requires true diplomacy. We have all been hurt by friends, parents, lovers, or people who have said or done unskillful things. You have lived in a restricted way. I have lived in a restricted way. I am suggesting to look at that thing, experience, or person honestly without the intention to cause harm. You then begin to live with honesty and nonviolence in your whole body in speech and mind.
Following the precepts and intentions back to the source, we can find they are always in motion echoing that circular motion of our lives. For example, if I say something to my son or family member, I can see the feedback loop a few days later when what I said is repeated. We can witness and let our actions sculpt us. Karma does not happen to us, it's who we are, and actions matter.
WE are the feedback loop. Our actions matter.
Honesty teaches us to be content and satisfied with what we have and to listen to everybody. Even those places inside of us and outside of us that we have a hard time listening to. Yes, even that difficult person in our minds has something to teach us about ourselves.
In terms of satya or honesty, before you speak, ask yourself; if it is honest or not honest. If it’s true, is it beneficial the way I am talking to myself right now? Mindfulness is like a dead end sign. Mindfulness is pulling the sign to the front of the road so before you start heading down that route, you know it’s a dead end. Even though you don’t get rid of the dead end, you recognize it before it begins.
Another example you can ask yourself; If it's true, should I really stop and say this?
Regarding satya and speech; if it’s not beneficial, reflect upon it. Timing could be everything. It may not be beneficial to you or the other person if it causes so much pain. Start to recognize what appropriate speech is and consider all parties involved. It’s inevitable that you will step in your “shit’ on occasion but welcome to being human. You are here to learn from your classroom of life. It is NOT good or bad. It just is as a special teacher in my life reminded me of very recently.
My truth is to be curious, open, and kind to the best of my ability. I'm human so I'll fall down but I will get back up with humility and an apology.
I share this story because I believe we all find ourselves in situations where we question ourselves and our truth. It happens. And when it does, when you get that feeling like something just doesn't feel right, listen. Don't ignore it.
Give that feeling some space to allow your truth to bubble up to the surface. It's there within you. It's there to guide you.
P.S. If you're interested in developing your truth muscles through yoga therapy and life coaching, contact me HERE. I would be honored to support you.