The second “yama,” or ethical guideline, in the yoga practice is satya, or truthfulness. This follows the first yama of ahimsa, or non-violence, and these guidelines are meant to go beyond their blatant meaning and absorbed into the day-to-day activities that we pursue. For example, we practice ahimsa not only by passing up urges for conflict or acts of violence, but we practice it as well in how we eat our food (which is why many yogis are vegetarian or vegan), in how we speak to each other, and in how we speak and act towards the self.
All of the other yamas are both separate from one another and intertwined. For example, satya, or truthfulness, is the ability to speak the truth. However, we must still follow the first guideline of ahimsa while following satya, so we must not only speak the truth, but we must ask ourselves before we speak:
- Is it true? and also
- Is it kind?
Satya doesn’t mean telling your girlfriend she looks fat in those jeans if you think it would hurt her feelings, because that is, in a way, an act of violence. Instead, we are asked to find ways of speaking the truth while being kind, as well.
This is not an easy feat in today’s political and social culture we have created. Politicians may be kind, but tell many lies. Or they may speak only what they know of the truth, but be rude and violent with their speech.
It seems that we often have to pick our path – do we want truth, or do we want kindness? How often do we feel compelled to choose between two options, with neither being ideal?
While I don’t have the solution for our current political climate, I do believe that this notion of dualism is our constructed reality, rather than the actual reality. We are often asked to view things as right and wrong, up or down, left or right, moral or immoral. What if, however, there was no notion of right or wrong? What if satya, or truthfulness, is in the eye of the beholder? What if each person is doing their best to uphold the standards of both ahimsa and satya and finding this imperfect marriage between the two?
I do not believe in perfection, and I do not believe in idealism. The practice of yoga teaches us to work steadily for change, while embracing the notion that there are ups and downs. What you sacrifice in flexibility, you gain in strength. What you sacrifice in strength, you gain in flexibility. They can be both present, yes – but typically this is more boring than what our monkey minds are used to resting upon. We find the notion of unparalleled strength appealing – and so we have body building competitions and athletic events. We also love the idea of being incredibly flexible – and so we display impressive yoga postures on Instagram and injure ourselves for photographs.
Is there balance between the two? Yes. Is it something that will capture our attention? Likely, no.
To find satya, or truthfulness, is to walk that line between. No political candidate ever won a nomination by saying, “I understand and honor your ideas, and I see the value in them. However, what if we tried this approach instead?” No one ever won a body building competition by exercising a moderate two to three times per week.
The truth of the matter is – satya and ahimsa are quite boring. They are not flashy, they are not exciting. It doesn’t make for a great television program nor will it get you famous on Instagram. The Sutras never promised fame – they promised a life worth living. They promised that with devotion and practice and concentration, you may one day reach enlightenment. And I, personally, would much rather live a boring, enlightened life, than one of constant striving and never reaching satisfaction. My truth is: simplicity reigns.
This week, dive into your own truth. Sit still, and ask yourself:
- What is true for me?
- Am I living as an example of my own truth?
- Is how I am living in truth also kind?
Namaste, my beautiful friends. ❤