There’s this yoga tenet called Satya that asks us to be truthful. Sound advice, but what does that mean exactly?
Perhaps unbelievably, there are many definitions of truth. Truth can be defined as conformity with fact or reality, or a verified indisputable fact, or actual existence. But there are holes in those theories. Facts change. The world is flat, for example. Facts are a place holder until newer facts come along to bump them out of the way.
But truth is also defined as honesty and integrity. That feels like something to work with.
Satya is the second of our yamas (restraints) just after non-harming (ahimsa). It is typically translated as non-lying which, flipped, would mean truthfulness, right? Maybe. So many gray areas surrounding such a simple concept. When we compound non-harming with truthfulness we walk a delicate line. Should I be honest, or should I tell a little white lie to be nice?
There is a way out of the cloud of confusion.
The deeper meaning of this yama points toward living authentically, having no secrets, an open heart. That’s a much taller and deeper order. And it involves math, subtraction to be precise.
Authenticity is the uncovering of one’s Self, not the reinvention of the ego. It is unlearning much of what we have been taught about fear and competition. It is the work of peeling away those attributes and beliefs that make the ego so strong and defensive. It is creating an opening to allow for softness, to make room for the ideas and perspectives of others, to get to the sweet, mushy heart center. You know, vulnerability.
Brene Brown, current vulnerability and authenticity guru has this to say about it, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
It can be scary stuff. Throughout life we create protective fortresses - often without even realizing it - to keep ourselves from getting hurt, looking like an idiot or failing in some way. On the other side of that we are preventing richer relationships, stunting our emotional growth, and not using our perceived failures to learn, brush ourselves off and move on.
While this yama is indeed asking us to be honest with ourselves it is also a guide to interacting honestly with others. It is about telling the truth, but at its core, it is about revealing your truth and sharing it.
So, what’s the first step to living authentically? That’s kind of up to you, but meditation is pretty magical. Breath work. Yoga. Running. You may be wondering if you should be sitting and thinking about this for a long time, figuring it out, but thinking is what built those defenses and limiting beliefs in the first place. Meditation and Yoga Nidra are probably the most efficient and effective ways of letting go of who you think you are and allowing your true self to emerge.
Nothing has to be added. You are perfect already. Subtraction, letting go, listening more than talking, stillness, that’s the work. Carl Jung said, “A lie would make no sense unless the truth was felt to be dangerous.” It may feel scary and dangerous to think about revealing who you think you truly are. But that’s the thinking mind, the ego. You can’t think your way to authenticity. Becoming more vulnerable is becoming more truthful, which is becoming authentic. It is liberating and joyful.
Think about this: Who you think you are is only who YOU think you are, everyone else thinks you’re who they want or need you to be. Pause for a moment and read that again.
Each individual is operating from their own unique perspective and their desires all based on their personal histories. As are you. You cannot change anyone else. You cannot fix another person. That is their work. You cannot make yourself into someone everyone will like. There is no need and it’s not possible. Living authentically creates space for you to just be. And when you are your authentic self, others will more like share their authentic selves.
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” - Brene Brown
Just do you. That’s what the world needs.