Satya: Tell It Like it Is

As a way of introduction, allow me just say that I am currently in the dating pool and it has been a very, um, interesting experience thus far.

There are some challenging aspects to putting yourself out there: nerves about meeting new people, having awkward encounters with them, the potential for rejection. But the real difficulty for me in this experience has been consistent with just about every one of my potential suitors. People really don't like to tell it like it is. Especially guys who don't want to screw up the possibility of maybe some day getting into your pants (sorry mom!).

Moose, the cat, who tells me no lies.

Moose, the cat, who tells me no lies.

It's really difficult to be forthcoming with your feelings. This I know. We are all concerned with not hurting feelings and trying to let people down easy. It feels yucky to be rejected and our awareness of that feeling can keep us from presenting information clearly.

But. Wouldn't it be more kind if we were upfront with our feelings? In relationships with people, romantic or otherwise, we have to be able to trust their words in order to have open and honest interactions. We also create expectations for people around what they tell us. Whether for good or bad, we tend to choose our activities, think our thoughts, and live our lives around our interactions with others. When someone is unclear or untrue in their communication, it's quite challenging to know how best to proceed. It doesn't require brutal honesty or unkindness, but maybe just letting someone know that you'd rather be friends, or even that you really like them would make life easier in the long run. Plus, when we can tell the full story, it means that we no longer have to worry about it. It's often a load off of our chests to let someone know how we truly feel. 

My grandmother, who you may remember from previous posts, is a big proponent of The Four Agreements. One of the agreements is to "use your impeccable word." Impeccable. As in true, with integrity, honest, open. In the yogic tradition, the word for truth is satya and it's one of the yamas or the outer observances of practice. It's essentially the second rule of thumb for how to treat others.

Sutra 2.36 says

satya-pratistayam kriya-phala-asrayatvam
When one abides in truthfulness, actions result in their desired end

So, if we truly mean the words that we say, if they are actually our intentions, the likelihood of them coming true is high. Nicolai Bachman says it like this:

Satya also involves a high degree of responsibility and follow-through. If we give our word that we will do something, then it becomes our responsibility to finish it. Following through on commitments develops confidence in ourselves and others that we will do what we say. If we think one thing and say another, the energy becomes diffracted and much less potent. When all three energies are the same, they are focused like a laser beam and the intention is much more likely to come true. (The Yoga Sutras, pg. 108)
Non-harming through truth-telling. How sweet.

Non-harming through truth-telling. How sweet.

How would our lives be different if we were more careful with our words? If we could be honest and open and upfront about our intentions with other people? I understand that at times we feel that we're protecting them from pain or shielding them from the suffering that may result from the truth, but is that truly kind? Wouldn't we be practicing ahimsa, non-harming, in the fullest way possible if we told the whole story? Can we tell it like it is?

Yoga in Action: Being True to Yourself

So, I've been teaching for 3 years now. Not too much time, admittedly, but enough time to have a decent grasp of my own style and what works well for students and what works less well. As someone who has to promote myself as a small business, as well as continue a personal practice, I am constantly looking for ways to improve myself as a teacher and student and bring in more people.

To expand my skill-set and business acumen, I tend to look to yoga studios/teachers who are successful. What do they offer that brings so many people in? What is it that yoga practitioners are looking for in a teacher, studio, class format, etc.?

And I have to say that it's impossible to collect this type of information and not allow it to inform your own personal methods. When you take someone's class, it's only natural that you learn something new and begin to transmit that information in your own way.

I have been moving around the world for the past 5 or so years. I have studied with some incredible teachers all around the world. Here are some of my biggest influences over the past years:

Theresa Murphy, Omaha, NE

Lucie Konikova in Prague, Czech Republic

Ben Vincent in MPLS

Laurel Van Matre in MPLS

Rod Stryker of Para Yoga in Boulder, CO

Ganesh Mohan of Svastha Yoga in Chennai, India

This is an eclectic bunch of individuals with many different styles and approaches. I love being open to all different types of styles and being able to incorporate them into my own teaching. Theresa Murphy, my biggest yoga influence calls herself a "cross-pollinator" implying that she gets her information from multiple sources. I can't help but be the same way. When there are so many traditions and methods out there, why would you not experience as many of them as possible?

It is very challenging for me not to get mired down in the yoga pop culture muck. And the notion that one particular way/method is the only way is very prevalent in Western yoga culture. If you want people to buy your brand, you have to promote it as the brand.

What I have recently realized is that through my knowledge-seeking, I have strayed from teaching in my own very personal way. I have lost track of teaching in a way that is completely true to me. Not that I have not been teaching well or am disappointed with myself, but I have been learning so much really new material and trying to rectify it with my own personal style. And, I came to realize that it isn't really working. Part of the challenge of being a good teacher is transmitting the knowledge you obtain in a way that is clear and meaningful for your students. And you can't really do that if you're teaching in another teacher's style/way. For me, the most important thing is to be completely true to myself.

This is not to say that we shouldn't be open to the vast expanse of knowledge that is out there. And I wouldn't trade my experience/studies for anything else.  But it became clear to me that I've been trying to share information without first making it my own.Armed with this revelatory knowledge, not to mention yogic information, I forge on.

This is me.   

This is me.

 

There is so much to learn on this path.

Yamas: Satya

The second of five yamas  is Satya which translates as truth or truthfulness.
(For a refresher on the limbs of the eight-fold path or all five yamas, you can refer to the last post: Yamas: Ahimsa)

Ah, the notion of truth. A sticky subject in my opinion.
I suppose I should start by trying to define truth. Is it non-lying? Complete honesty? Certainty?

I think non-lying is a good place to start. So, what does that mean?
As I touched upon with ahimsa, although the yamas are considered "outward observances" or social conduct, they must inherently begin with the self.
How? So, not lying to ourselves about our intentions, our capabilities, our dharma. Not only not lying, but also recognizing our full potential as an aspect of truth. And knowing what it is that we desire out of situations and people; which is more easily obtainable if we are truly knowledgeable about ourselves to begin with. And also knowing the limits of our abilities and knowing when we've given our best and when to cease.

Okay, let's simplify. The yama of satya begins with us.
We must first come into an understanding of ourselves about our true nature. In other words, we need to get to know ourselves. Some of us have no problem with this initial step, while for others it's easy to avoid addressing the issue by being caught up in daily life, watching TV, surfing the internet, etc.
An easy place to begin the practice is on the yoga mat! We can use our asana practice to gain awareness of everything, but especially of ourselves. The physical practice of yoga is the perfect platform on which we can begin to grasp a sense of Self.
If we don't know us, how can we be held accountable for our actions? Judith Lasater actually talks about integrity as element of truth. To her, integrity is internal honesty--the idea that you wouldn't do something harmful even you were the only one to know about it. (Living Your Yoga p. 124) I think I have to agree that integrity can act as a self-test for whether or not we have established satya within ourselves.

Once this initial step is taken, when we can firmly grasp at least some truth about ourselves, then we can take the next step and bring the satya into our daily lives.

This part of it seems much easier to me because of its literal social implications. Socially, we tend to all (mostly) know that it's better to tell the truth than to lie. Even little white lies can be damaging. And sometimes this means saying things that don't want to be heard.
But this does not mean saying things that are intentionally damaging!! I think we've all been in situations in which we are fully aware that what we are about to say will be hurtful, but we do it anyway. But speaking our minds honestly is a great way to develop satya in social situations.
By acting honestly in each of our interactions and relationships, we create a solid base from which to grow most functionally. When we lie, we create separation between ourselves and others, potentially damaging our relationships with them.

How can we apply satya to our practice on the mat?
Knowing our physical limits and understanding the truth of pain vs. non-pain. Despite whatever it is that your neighbor is doing or that your teacher is requesting of you, you are remaining true to your physical capabilities and not pushing yourself to injury.
Another truthfulness practice is knowing why you are in class. What is it that you are there to achieve? You can work on this by setting an intention for your practice (however small) and sticking with it throughout your time on the mat.
One final satya practice is recognizing the broader scheme of Yoga. This one can be hard for new practitioners and those who feel that they attend class to work out. Understandable in the first few years of practice. But eventually, if you are acting from a place of truth, you must reconcile the work on the mat with the greater goal of Self-realization.

There is one final thing to say. The word satya literally translates as "actively becoming the truth of the Universe." (Lasater p. 124)
Wow. Something for which we truly can aspire.