Satya is often translated as truthfulness. It is the second of the five yamas (moral disciplines) described in the Yoga Sutra. This yama guides us to think, speak, listen and act with integrity.
The word sat literally means “that which is.” But Sanskrit is a vibrational language. And each sound creates vibrations that convey much more than static words. ‘Sat’ coveys more than just “that which is:, it also alludes to ‘unchangeable’, ‘that which has no distortion’, ‘that which is beyond distinctions of time & space’ For this reason, many Sanskrit words use the prefix ‘sat’ such as ‘satsang’ – ‘true community’ and ‘sattva’ meaning ‘pure’. This highlights the fact that ‘sat’ means more than ‘truth’. It is something that is unchanged and pure, that which just is.
Practicing satya, therefore means seeing and communicating things as they actually are, not as we wish them to be.
Satya – truths & half truths
This can be quite challenging since we all perceive life through a conditioned mind. Our past experience, beliefs and thoughts all shape what & how we see the world. No two people experience the same event in the same way. In order to communicate with each other we often create a joint narrative of half truths. But this leads to miscommunication. Satya means finding a way beyond these half truths so we may freely share our truth.
Satya – experience & changing truths
Furthermore as we live and learn, what we experience as truth now may not be true for us in the future. Practicing satya requires staying open to the present moment, as it reveals itself without judgement, manipulation or projection.
Satya requires that we feel honest
Many of us consider ourselves honest people. Except for the occasional white lies we tell when we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or admit something that’s personal. Like saying “Im well, thank you” even though you are having a bad day. But do it often enough; and telling these white lies can become an automatic response. It can become so automatic and unconscious that we reach a point where we are not even aware we’re telling lies. And with unawareness we don’t realise when we are in fact hurting others and ourselves in the process.
Have you ever feigned ill health when you really just wanted to stay in for the night? How often have you done this? Do you consider this lying?
Imitation, mimicry, group think – lies?
From childhood we are taught to fit in, to modify our behaviours in order to be more sociable, to be more accepted, to fulfil a role. We are taught to maintain a stiff upper lip because its more polite. And we do this until it becomes so automatic that we lose touch with what we really want and who we really are. And if we don’t know or speak our truth then we are lying.
Lying creates internal conflict
When we lie, we create conflict within our own minds. With continued mental conflict, we reach a point were we no longer trust ourselves. This can lead to uncertainty, anxiety & paranoia. If we are unable to trust ourselves, we believe the world is unsafe. We project our internal conflict outwards.
The “fake it till you make it” fallacy
Every one of us is on a journey, with some wisdom but also a host of learning to embrace. If we learn to trust this process then we never have to fake anything. As soon as you tell yourself that you have to fake something, you condition your mind to feel inauthentic. In doing this you limit yourself from having authentic, meaningful connections. And it is in these authentic meaningful connections that true learning and transformation occurs. To achieve your full potential, stop faking it. Take life as it is in every moment, face it in all honesty and respond in a way that feels authentic.
How do I practice Satya & maintain relationships?
When I talk about satya & living authentically, I get the response “but family and friends won’t understand, they expect me to be a certain way”. And the truth is, when you honour your truth and practice satya, many people will not be happy. And yes, you may loose a few friends. But you also open yourself up to more meaningful, authentic relationships. The conversations with the friends that stick around will become deeper and you will attract new friends that honour your deepest self.
When it comes to family, when we speak our truth – we give others a chance to speak theirs. I like to think of relationships as co-actualising relationships. In co-actualising relationships, each family member commits to helping the others be their most authentic self. Co-actualising families enable every member to reach their highest potential.
And yes sometimes speaking the truth can be painful. But if we practice satya tempered by ahimsa: non-violence, then we can create a platform where we live honestly & authentically but cause no injury.
My satya, my silence, my truth
For me satya is an important discipline. I would rather maintain silence than speak false niceties, would rather honour my truth than win acquaintances. I do believe that true friendships honour satya. And I have come to accept that living in this manner will not win me any popularity contests. But the friendships that I do share are strong and solid; the conversations deep, meaningful, thought provoking, challenging, transformative. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.