Keeping it Real with Satya
Second in Patanjali's list of yama
, truth. The yama
compose a list of restraints, actions to avoid. So within this limited context, satya
refers primarily to not lying nor promoting falsehoods. With the diligent awareness required to actually practice yoga, one can quickly see that this is a bigger undertaking than it may initially appear.
Society's harmony is often fueled by slight lies and euphemisms. We are encouraged to be nice in hopes of making others feel good, often at the expense of the truth.
Clever yogis and socialites alike will find ways to promote social harmony and good vibes without bending the truth – but it will take some work. And this verbal work may give rise to practicing satya
in a broader context. When given a gift, we are expected to verbally appreciate the offer and its functionality within our lives. Yet instead of saying, “Thank you, its just what I have always wanted,” we may seek to find a statement that both appreciates the giving and is spoken in truth.
The statement, “Thank you, this is going to be really useful,” gives an opportunity to find a use for the gift. The next step is lining up the actions with the words. Once we have uttered it, our practice will reside in making the statement true.
Patanjali notes that as one is more firmly established in Satya, results naturally follow. So as we refine the art of doing what we say, our actions more easily integrate with our words. The statement, “I will be at your house at noon,” can mean a wide variety of different things, depending mostly on who is speaking. Coming from one enmeshed in Satya, the statement means exactly as it says.
This seemingly simple practice is built upon mindfulness in three areas: deed, word and thought. As we notice that our actions don't always match our words, we may begin acting and speaking with much more forethought and integrity. “I will be at your house between noon and one.”
Once we start realizing how many little lies slip out of our mouths, we can become aware of how many untruths exist within our very minds. Cleaning up the mind is a higher form of Satya, and this begins by realizing just how untruthful we are to ourselves. Often we tell ourselves something that we don't actually believe. “I'll write that letter tomorrow,” we might think, knowing that its highly unlikely. But just as we strive to associate our spoken words with truthful actions, we can strive to correct the mind from its fallacious thoughts.
As the practice becomes more refined, one's perspective may become clearer and clearer about what is true. Eventually, the seer may experience reality without the bias of the overt ego or body-mind. This divine journey into truth can begin from the simplest daily observations of the untruths that exist within our thoughts, deeds and our speech.