When studying the Yamas, it is important to understand that Truthfulness, or Satya, is a building block upon non-violence, or Ahimsa. Just in case you missed our previous discussion of Ahimsa, click here. Satya is not greater than Ahimsa, and non-violence should be practiced before truthfulness. This means that you should not speak a truth if you know it to be angry, hurtful words.
All too often, it can feel easier to say what people want to hear instead of what you really think. Truthfulness requires clarity, confidence, and courage. Before speaking, think about what you are saying and why you are saying it. If you feel an impulse to say something because you are angry, think carefully about what you will say.
Anger can be a tricky feeling. Frequently, when anger is involved, things can be done and said that cause harm to others. This directly conflicts with Ahimsa (non-violence).
When I was visiting with my mom this past weekend, she shared a great story about Satya with me. She used to work in dialysis. For her, this required long hours, coffee, and cigarettes.
One morning, she came in to start someone’s dialysis and, as she was talking to him, he said, “You know, your breath stinks.” My mother looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Thank you. I had no idea.” She went and got some breath mints and came back later to ask him if her breath was better.
I love this story because of the absolute truth of it all! This man had the courage to tell a woman who was about to poke him with a needle that she had bad breath, and she had the openness to accept that he was telling her the truth, a truth that she would want to know before proceeding with her day. For so many of us, it can be a challenge to check our ego at the door, but think of how much courage it must take to tell someone something they are not wanting to hear.
Satya requires you to honor yourself by being truthful about what you think and feel without causing harm to others.
In this world, there is a lot of pressure to fit in. The need to belong is a pressure placed on each of us. Growing up, the kids who were different were sometimes sent to the “alternative” school, like they were being shipped off to the Island of Misfit Toys.
These non-conformists showed me that it was very strongly recommended that you proceed with your head down and homework completed if you were to stay the course. Doing your work and keeping quiet would ensure that you would have the happy, average life that you surely deserved. Speaking up, speaking out, would only stir the pot and cause trouble.
However, as you can guess, this life does not work if you are living a truthful life. At some point in time, you’re going to have to figure out your own thoughts and act accordingly. Keep in mind that your thoughts and beliefs may not be the same as those around you. No one person is right, yet all people can decide what is right for themselves. It’s just a matter of asking yourself the right questions and honoring your truthful answers.
You cannot follow the rules of others without thought and careful contemplation about what is right for you.
Coulda, shoulda, woulda. People are quick to tell you how to be, what to do, even how to feel, but their opinions don’t matter. What matters is how you are, what you do, how you feel. There will always be someone offering up advice, telling you how you should be, or how you should do things, but it’s really up to you.
The great truth is that what works for one, may not work for another. We are all individuals, and it’s important to respect individuality. Also, try not to interfere in the learning experiences of others.
For example, my son is learning how to put away his clothes. As a very detail oriented person, it can be very frustrating for me to watch nicely stacked and folded underwear get thrown in to a drawer or shirts facing different directions and sometimes falling off the hanger. But what of it? That is my challenge.
My son is very capable of using his system to get himself completely dressed. So if I tell him his drawer is a mess or his shirts need to be on the hangers, facing forward, is that a truth? No, that’s an ego-driven statement that is an attack on his way of doing things.
Think about what you say, how you act, and your internal dialogue. Do you find that your words, actions, and thoughts are congruent with the principles of Satya?