Recently at Yoga Centered students and teachers have been invited to contemplate together. In their practice both on and off their mats, the illuminative world of the Yamas (ethical precepts of restraint). These yamas are the very first limb of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in Sanskrit and of Patanaji’s eight-fold path of Classical Yoga. It is a path which leads us toward the promise of enlightenment. How I like to think of it, it leads us toward the doorway of enlightened everyday living. This month, the Yama of contemplation is Satya, which can be translated as truthfulness, authenticity or genuineness.
Contemplation of the yamas are an invitation to expand our inner life, a barometer by which to self reflect, a way to examine our actions, words, thoughts and intentions, not in order to become judgmental or critical of ourselves or others, but rather a way to look at ourselves honestly with compassion, to find integrity, and make the choices which lead us to express our authenticity as we navigate daily life.
Satya in my Life
As a child, of a New York, Irish, Catholic family, my values around truth were pretty black and white. If you told the truth you were good, if you did not, you were bad. Truth telling leads you to heaven and well, not telling the truth…. you get the idea. The really incredible thing was that in my childhood brain, each month when I went to confession (a common ritual of my particular culture), I used to be so nervous about what the priest would think of me that I would often tell untruths so as not to expose who I really was. Yoga, as you can imagine, came as a welcome relief to this convoluted existence.
Yoga asks that as we contemplate Satya, we keep Ahimsa in mind. This means that we cultivate non-harming, fostering loving kindness for both others and ourselves first. Truth is the second level. Yoga also suggests that the yamas are a continuum, they are not black and white, yes or no, right or wrong. It is not just that we are either a truthful person or an untruthful one. On one end of this continuum there are outright spoken lies meant to harm, then, this progresses into something along the lines of, not lying but not really owning up when necessary either. Further along this continuum is maintaining true thoughts, words and deeds while ultimately being genuine and authentic to who we really are. This, I find a much more valuable place to reflect.
Living with Satya, is about finding authenticity, it is about being who you are and not apologizing for it. It is about giving yourself the permission to celebrate your inner light and its unique expression with those around you.
To contemplate this, questions I find helpful are:
- What is my inner nature and how can I align with that authentically, completely honestly?
- In what situations do I allow my inner light to fade?
- How often do I allow the opinions on the outside to trump the voice of my inner vision?
- What is the balance between not boasting and bragging but not diminishing myself either?
- How does it make me feel when I choose not to honor my authenticity?
- When I am truthful, do my actions create more love or more harm in the world?
- In what ways could I celebrate my unique gifts and unique self-expression with those around me more?
- If you read Patanaji, the sutra on satya (II.36) says: Satya pratisthayam kriya phala asrayatvam“For one established in the truth the result fits the action.”To me, I think that this means that when the voice of our inner vision shines with great clarity, what manifests is our deepest intentions.
May we, and all beings everywhere, live with authenticity and allow our true radiance to ripple out into the world.
Thank you for joining me for this exploration of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in Sanskrit. Namaste Liz ☺