The weather is starting to change here in the Show-Me State, turning the mornings crisp and misty. September has always been my favorite month for some reason. My son’s birthday is in the month of September and this year he turned eight. Last year I went all out on his birthday, but I recently located a post I had made about simplifying birthdays coupled with, well, a global pandemic and I just didn’t have it in me to be a hero. It was just a quiet gathering with one friend over for pizza and a cupcake. I watched Grey’s Anatomy while they played Minecraft. It was glorious. I wish I could blame COVID (I mean, I suppose technically I can blame COVID) but truthfully, I was secretly glad it was such a low-impact activity.
September signals a time of hibernation for me, a preparation of sorts. Missouri winters are not at all like those of the northeast or even upper Midwest, but still – for me – a time to put on a light jacket, make myself a London Fog, and prepare to wrap up a year. All across the world, people are declaring 2020 a shitshow but, while it hasn’t been ideal, 2020 has been nothing like the shitshows I’ve endured over the last four years. On my son’s birthday I was reminded (thanks, Facebook) that just three years ago, my husband packed his bags and moved out releasing a two-year-long season of emotional pain and growth. So, yeah, no. I’d take 2020 over any of the years between 2016-2019 (or if I’m honest, the entire time we were married) – thank you very much.
That sounds a bit dramatic, doesn’t it, admitting I’d take a worldwide health crisis, global financial instability, and suffering through the worst presidency of my life over my own personal trauma, but well, it’s the truth. Nothing hits home harder than the pain of one’s own experience. And so here we are today…talking about Truth.
I’m still working through my series on the Eight Limbs of Yoga which I introduced here in my last post. I am really getting into this and almost think the hour on the mat, along with the teaching has been better than the thousands I’ve spent on therapy over the last four years.
The second of the Yamas is Satya. I think this one has had the most impact thus far, with the exception of a little emotional release in week five – which I’ll get to in a few more posts. Satya is Truthfulness, or more explicitly, the refraining from lying with an additional emphasis on being more authentic and more real.
Satya, as with all the limbs, isn’t a ‘one and done’ thing, I’m learning. Finding Satya – my Truth – has been an evolutionary experience that will, if practiced correctly, be a lifelong process. I am relieved that this can’t be rushed. Since I’ve ignored it for 49 years, I would suspect that, naturally, it would take time to unravel the ball of bullshit I’ve managed to wind so tightly into my psyche.
As a partner to Ashima (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness) prevents nonviolence from being a wimpy cop-out and nonviolence prevents truthfulness from being a brutal weapon. These two Yamas support each other – checks and balances, of sorts.
I’ve experienced the war of Ashima Versus Satya most of my life. Case in point, some say I am kind – to which I would always disagree – because I always believed kindness and niceness were the same. After all, I’m the one who was alone with my thoughts – you know, the stuff you don’t say out loud because you don’t want to be an asshole – so, therefore, I couldn’t agree that I was kind because my thoughts weren’t always nice. When I started to realize that being kind didn’t necessarily mean being nice – I was able to accept that yes, most of the time, I am kind. I am, however, not always nice and I’m learning to appreciate this about myself. For example, recently I was asked for my advice and I spoke my truth: “Are you sure? Because I’m not going to sugar coat any of this shit, so if you want someone to be nice, then call your mother. I will, however, be truthful and kind.”
Almost immediately after the class where Satya was introduced, I started listing the ways I wasn’t honoring my truth in my life. My hope is, by sharing, you might start to see how not honoring your truth doesn’t have to be a big deal while others, well, brace yourself – are up-ending.
Here are some of the ways I have been able to practice Satya since my introduction on August 18th.
Be real rather than nice. As I’ve mentioned before in many posts, I have been notorious for saying yes when I really want to say no. It’s a byproduct of my anxiety and my upbringing that I’m working to change, but nonetheless, I don’t enjoy risking upsetting the asker so I would be nice instead of truthful. But, during my hour on the mat, I realized that saying yes when I wanted to say no was not really nice at all because I often ended up feeling bitter and resentful. I quickly put some tiny changes into action: Not answering the phone after 8 pm to protect my quiet time, telling people to stop texting and IMing me all day so I could get my work done, and taking some of my precious kid-free time to embark on much-needed self-care instead of overcommitting. In my mind, at first, these felt ‘unkind’ but I took a deep breath and said “Fuck it”’ and let the chips fall where they may. And some people were pissed. And that’s okay.
Tell yourself the truth. This one was harder and less easy to put into place. On any day of the year, I am already my worst critic so it was a rather difficult week when I faced some brutal truths. The hardest: Realizing that I had definitely STILL not healed from my divorce and the resentment was carrying over into several areas of my life. I was hyper-focused on ‘telling my side of the story’ and was starting to feel resentful of my then-current partner because I hadn’t stopped the bleeding from the last relationship. But other big revelations were more crushing: Coming to grips with the fact that I got married – twice – even when I knew in my bones both times neither of these men was right for me (this goes way back to an event in 1993 that I also learned through the Yamas I had not dealt with, which I may get into at some point). Still yet: Admitting I am much more anxious than I let on which explains a lot of my self-preservation tendencies and inability to speak my truth; Learning I’ve trusted so many of the wrong people with my story and coming to grips with the fact that I am not so crazy about where I live and why I live there. Also, I’m mean to my body – or at least, was mean to it. I’m being kinder now.
Accept ‘Truth’ Changes. When you focus on your truth and are open to the lessons – no matter how ugly – the truth can change you. It seems a bit cliche to say but, indeed, the truth will set you free. If you can accept this idea, you will also need to accept that these changes will affect others to some degree. If you really are practicing from a Do No Harm mindset, then you’ll understand – and maybe even embrace – some fallout.
As you reflect on Satya, I wonder – In what ways are you living inauthentically? The truth rarely seems to ask the easier choice of us. It is entirely comprehensible how we arrived at the spot we are now if we seek our Truth. And yes, “The truth hurts” but “The Truth will also set you free”. Practicing Satya isn’t always fun, but it is always authentic. Furthermore, are you being nice rather than kind to yourself and/or others? What is Satya for you and how do you think embracing Satya will change you? As always, I’ll leave you with a song.