Satya: Chapter 2 of Yamas and Niyamas for “Normal” People
Satya requires truthfulness. That’s easy, right?
But I know that you have had one of these questions before, or at least something like them: Do I look fat in this dress? How do you like my pound cake? Should we invite your mom? And you know what your answers were: No, it’s gorgeous! Mmm, delish! Yes, of course! And then, you know what you really meant: It’s 4 sizes smaller than you actually are, what do you think? If you were going for stale cardboard, then I love it. Yes, only if you’d like me to jump out the window.
So here’s what truth is about. Stop being a liar. And stop being mean. And do both at the same time. What you’ll notice throughout the Yamas and Niyamas lessons is that Ahimsa (non-harming, non-pissing on each other) is a recurring theme. At the heart of all of this is that you have to avoid hurting other people, and yourself.
Here’s how: In yoga teacher training, we learned about “the four gates of speech.” The idea here is that before you say something, it should be able to pass through four gates: (1) Is it truthful? (2) Is it necessary to say? (3) Is it the appropriate time to say it? (4) Can it be said in a kind way? If all four things are true, let it rip! Let’s practice.
You get home from a long day of work to find your spouse in the bedroom. He tells you that he was fired from his job this morning. You hear him but observe that he hasn’t showered all day, socks and other dirty-things are strewn about, there’s an empty pizza box on the floor, and in the bathroom the toilet seat is up and maybe there’s a little urine dribble on the edge. (I don’t know whose spouse this is, but you have my deepest apologies.) As you survey the scene, your honey notices your expression and says to you, “What’s wrong?”
How do you answer? (I’ll give you a hint: there are no expletives involved.)
So let’s go through the four gates: (1) Would it be truthful to tell him that the place is a mess and it stinks? Yes, absolutely; so we move on. (2) Is it necessary to say? Well, yes, only if you want to stop roaches before they start. (3) Is it the appropriate time to say it? Skirrrrrrr! He got fired this morning. Have a heart! Yes it stinks, yes that’s gross, no it wouldn’t fly any other time. So you have two choices: You clean it up yourself, or you just sit still with your honey and talk to him about the mess tomorrow. Or maybe you manage some combination of the two. I’m lucky enough to have a honey with a sense of humor, so I could probably muster a, “Babe, I’m so sorry about your job. But you didn’t have to piss on our floor in protest.”
You get my point right? Try the four gates often, particularly when your first instinct is to just annihilate the other person verbally and deal with the aftermath later.
But here’s the real homework for you: Try this on yourself. Can you find a way to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and things you want to improve, without beating yourself up? It’s ok to acknowledge that you want to lose weight; and if you are obese, then being honest means that you recognize that. But you don’t get to call yourself fat every morning as motivation, or tell yourself how worthless you’ll be until you lose the weight. That’s not even truth, that’s just mean.