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Focus of the Month - Satya - Truthfullness


"I honor those who try
to rid themselves of any lying
who empty the self
and have only clear being there." - Rumi

Satya is one of the yoga Yamas, the Yamas being the disciplines and restraints that the practitioner does her best to abide by. Practicing Satya in our lives is no easy endeavor because when it comes down to it, we all resort to half-truths, exaggerations and deceptions, both big and small, that keep us mired in a less than transparent ways of living. But again, we are only human and there need not be shame in our discovering the trickster within us that keeps us apart from transparency. How many of us can honestly say that we never exaggerate or avoid speaking and acting on truths?

To live in truth implies that one must know when one is not acting in truth and to do that takes extreme mindfulness. Paying attention to the ways we trick ourselves, and subsequently others, by NOT being truthful is a practice that is fraught with challenge. Furthermore, truth itself can be an evasive little critter that expertly hides or resorts to a kind of stealth mode when the going gets tough. We all have within our psychic constellations a deft and clever liar who acts from a place of fear, reactivity and confusion. When our less than truthful ways of being in the world become sticky from years of activation, it is harder to slough them off. However, the good news is that as sticky as our deceptions might be, we can, with attention, loving kindness and strong intention begin to let them go.

Like so many yogic concepts there are many levels to working with Satya. There is the Satya of the absolute- the truth of being and our place in the cosmos and, while this aspect of Satya might seem heady and esoteric, many yogis would argue the opposite. Absolute Satya is well beyond the scope of this essay but is a worthwhile point of investigative departure.

We can employ our Satya practice on the mat by attending to how we do or don't allow our asana practice to be informed by the deep listening to the truths our body reveals to us. Or, we might begin to pay close attention to our speech and where and how in our conversations with others we resort to exaggeration, distortion or outright lies. Distortion is an insidious phenomenon because it is often automatic and begins to sound like truth. Do we live in ways that are congruent with our deepest held principles? Do we interact with friends, co-workers, neighbors, our natural environment, strangers, family and our most dear loved ones in ways that are in concert with our heartfelt values? Every moment is an opportunity to bring more Satya into our lives.

Rumi suggests we empty ourselves into "only clear being". It sounds like an impossible task and perhaps it is unlikely that most of us will achieve such a goal in our lifetime. But, as I have said before, the beauty of the Yamas (and of so many wisdom teachings for that matter) is that they are given as guide posts and tools for leaning in the direction of living with "clear being" and, if there are more moments of clear being in our lives, we are slowly but surely untangling the webs of confusion, bewilderment and anxiety that grow from our groping in the dark.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov got right to the point: "Develop a good eye. Always looking for good will bring you truth. Truth is the light by which to find your way out of darkness. Turn it on!"

Donna Sherman July 2010