“Can you imagine speaking and acting so correctly that you never have to go back and apologise or make a new agreement?” ~ Deborah Adele
Since we were all very little, we were taught to tell the truth. It’s a basic moral guideline across most cultures. So we learn and understand about telling the truth, about ‘white’ lies, about the consequences of lying and we do our best, most of the time. Does it count when a lie might make someone feel better? Does it count in story-telling? And what about saying what ‘I’ think is true versus what ‘you’ think is true? And then, what does being truthful have to do with your yoga practice?
Truthfulness in Sanskrit is known as ‘Satya’, and is the second of the 5 ‘Yamas’ or personal restraints that the great sage Patanjali outlines in his ‘Yoga Sutras’. Before he even gets to any talk about the physical practice of Yoga, we are advised to ‘speak the truth’ as a way towards ‘liberation from suffering’. What??? Well think about it, how do you feel when you find yourself not being truthful, either with someone else, or even - with yourself? Do you feel worried, anxious, distracted, or perhaps tied up with reasoning with yourself why it had been a good idea to be untruthful? Basically, even telling the smallest fibs, such as answering ‘I’m fine’ when asked how you are, when really things aren’t going all that great, can leave you feeling disconnected, and even somewhat empty. Or is that just me?
In my own practice of Yoga it has been a journey, like many of us in the Western world, from firstly experiencing the benefits of the physical practices of asana, pranayama and meditation, and then moving deeper over time towards incorporating the moral and ethical guidelines into daily life, and experiencing the ‘liberation from suffering’ that they can provide.
Why not take the challenge of watching how many times a day you say something that isn’t fully the ‘truth’, your truth. It might be a habitual response to a common question, or a white lie in order to ‘keep the peace’. When you begin to realize the effects that these small misadventures have on your own mental and emotional wellbeing, you’ll no doubt begin to choose your words more wisely, your responses more carefully, and feel the lightness of being that comes with being completely truthful all of the time. After taking care of your interactions with others in this way, you will then begin to notice how you can live more fully in your own truth. How do you make decisions? Are you hoping to please others with your words or actions? Are you acting from a place of following your truth? Is there room to act with more compassion and understanding through listening to that deep innate desire to increase joy and happiness for all, and decrease suffering? Honesty goes beyond the realm of ‘doing the right thing’, and begins to effect our every decision, conversation, and action.
So get back on your Yoga mat, do what you love to do, but begin to ask the question to yourself more regularly – am I speaking the truth? Are my thoughts, words and actions honest, truthful, and if I am searching for peace, happiness and freedom in my own life, can I project that so as to create peace, happiness and freedom for all other beings, everywhere.