This week my yoga classes focused on one of my very favorite yoga topics: the Yama of Satya, or truthfulness.
While the focus of the Yamas in our yoga practice is the integrity of our interactions with the world around us, I think the most challenging aspect of Satya is practice self-truth. Most of us feel we do not intentionally lie. But, our truths begin with information we take in from the world around us. Everything we think has its roots in something we’ve heard or seen.
Every bit of information that comes into our minds comes in through our eyes, ears, touch, taste, and smell; our senses. And, our senses come with a built-in filter, created by a litany of past experiences. And since we all have different past experiences, everyone’s filter is a little different.
Information distorted by a filter can no longer be absolutely true, in the universal sense. Filter or no, our thoughts feel true to us. And, everyone’s unique filter creates a different truth for them.
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” ― Marcus Aurelius
Removing a filter is very challenging, but necessary to see truth.
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” ― Fyodor Dostoevsky
The truth may be difficult to see, or even to digest when seen, but it’s the lack of truth that leads to pain.
“It is always the false that makes you suffer, the false desires and fears, the false values and ideas, the false relationships between people. Abandon the false and you are free of pain; truth makes happy, truth liberates.” ― Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Sometimes we claim to be open to or searching for truth, but we are simply looking for validation, as that can make us temporarily content.
“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” ― C.S. Lewis
The truth may be downright uncomfortable to see, and painful to accept.
“The truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.” ― Nadine Gordimer
“People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it’s served up.” ― George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” ― Flannery O’Connor
Sometimes we can be influenced by others who claim to know the absolute truth. Such strong confidence in one’s discernment of the absolute truth always makes me skeptical. As I grow older, I become more aware of how much of my truth is perceptions and opinions, rather than hard, unfiltered knowledge. It’s amazing how much smarter I was when I was young!
“The more I see, the less I know for sure.” ― John Lennon
“Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.” ― Andre Gide
Others may have so many reasons for convincing you that they know the absolute truth. In my experience, the more they work to convince others that they have knowledge of absolute truth, the less they actually do. (but, maybe that’s not really true.)
“Wanting to be liked can get in the way of truth.” ― Delia Ephron, Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc.
“Words can be twisted into any shape. Promises can be made to lull the heart and seduce the soul. In the final analysis, words mean nothing. They are labels we give things in an effort to wrap our puny little brains around their underlying natures, when ninety-nine percent of the time the totality of the reality is an entirely different beast. The wisest man is the silent one. Examine his actions. Judge him by them.” ― Karen Marie Moning
Our yoga practice helps us remove the filters. We quiet the mind, and through control and detachment we observe, seeing the opinions and beliefs that may be distorting our observations.
“The main engagement of the writer is towards truthfulness; therefore he must keep his mind and his judgement free.”—Gabrielle Roy
But, if we are open to challenging our perceptions, and spend more time quieting and observing our mind than convincing others of its validity, we can experience great rewards.
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Of course, I don’t really know any of this at all. But, I’m willing to guess it’s the truth.