Have you ever told a "white lie"?
How did telling the "white lie" make you feel?
While most of us have told a "white lie" at some point of another in our lives, equally as many of us likely felt uncomfortable in the moment the words crossed our lips, or in today's age of technology, the moment we hit "send".
According to the second yama in "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali", "satya", it is better to remain silent than it is to tell a "white lie". This simple moral guideline of "truthfulness" reveals to us the true essence of that which is. It is in the pondering and surrendering to the essence of truth that helps us navigate our relationship with our self and with the world.
This second yama, or moral discipline, “satya" roughly translated means “truth" and is often translated to “truthfulness” or “the essence of truth”. As its predecessor "ahimsa", what seems like a simple principle in thought and action, is really quite profound and challenging to put into daily practice. This observance and practice of "truthfulness" or "the essence of truth" equally applies to our mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual health.
Henry David Thoreau said it wisely and simply - “It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.”
To apply this philosophical principle to your daily life practice becoming very aware of the thoughts you have each day. To experience this in it's simplest form try this simple practice.
Sit in front of a flower for 30 - 60 seconds (set a timer).
Observe the flower.
Notice what thoughts arise.
What came up?
How did those thoughts about the flower make you feel?
The symbol of the flower could evoke many different thoughts. These thoughts might come in the form of memories, perhaps even daydreams or romantic notions. The thoughts then create a chemical response in the body by way of an emotion.
As with the mirror gazing activity we explored in the practice of ahimsa, we have the opportunity to explore the range of automatic thoughts, and this time really observe our emotional reaction. This is the next layer, as the rose has layers of petals, as does this practice of turning inward so we might see "the essence of truth".
Try this practice again but with a friend. After the practice share with each other what you noticed, what thoughts came up, and how the activity made you feel. You might be surprised how you can both be looking at the exact same thing but have two completely different experiences.
To take this practice to the next level, the next time you're interacting and engaging with someone, notice what comes up. What patterns exist in the conversation? What feelings are triggered with the words exchanged? If you notice a pattern that begins to spiral towards mindless (aka automatic response), gently give yourself (and them) a little grace and guide yourself back to purposeful, intentional connection. Sometimes this might require a stepping away for a moment, for it is better to pause and give space than engage in connection that is distracting from the "truth" of the moment.
Can you think of a situation or interaction you've had with someone else where the connection was clouded by a pattern of "not being on the same page", or perhaps worse, where you felt you had to tell "white lies" to appease the other? Usually the suffering that occurs here is that one feels unseen in "their perspective of the truth". How can we find connection when there seems to be so much disconnection?
Pause now to be grateful for the opportunity to even notice all of this. The first step to healing and recovery is knowledge. It is with this knowledge you awaken your responsibility to pursue healthy change within. This is just the beginning.
If we keep the guiding principle of satya (the essence of truth) at the back of our mind every day we can eliminate much suffering. Like ahimsa, this principle keeps us anchored, balanced, and centered.
"To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient." - Yoga Sutra 2:35
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