A little while ago, I wrote an article on ‘Ahimsa’ or ‘Non Violence’ for Ekhart Yoga.com (read it here). Ahimsa is the first Yama which makes up part of the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’. The other limbs include the ‘Niyamas’ (observances), Asana (Physical postures), Pranayama (Breathing techniques), Pratyahara (Sense withdrawal / inner focus), Dharana (Concentration), Dhyana (Meditation), and Samadhi (Spiritually blissful state).
Satya is the second of the Yamas – these are moral codes to follow in order to lead a good life.
Satya translates as ‘unchangeable’, which we can take here to mean ‘truthfulness’; being honest with ourselves and others. This can be a pretty difficult thing to do, especially if we have been trying to ignore thruths we know we need to tell each other. It can be even more difficult if we’re avoiding truths we need to face up to within ourselves….
This truthfulness doesn’t mean simply ‘not telling lies’ though. Think about that translation – ‘unchangeable’, ‘that which does not change’ – the meaning goes far deeper, and takes us to the roots of what the real practice of yoga helps us to realise. ‘Satya’ or ‘truth’ means seeing the world for what it truly is. It means realising that our perceptions, fears, and limiting beliefs are not real, no matter how powerful they may seem. Our minds and emotions seems to control us, but they’re always changing. The truth doesn’t.
Seeing the truth means every situation we’re faced with can – and should – be taken for exactly what it is, without applying preconceived ideas to it. Although this is of course easier said than done….
Experiences, people and places don’t come with a label telling us how we’re supposed to feel about them. We create that label for ourselves, and this taints our vision of the world around us. This is what’s known in the yogic texts as the ‘veil of Avidya’ or ‘spiritual ignorance’… basically meaning ignorance of the truth. It’s as though we’ve spent our whole lives walking around with special glasses on. We only see what our mind tells us we should see. Usually this happens because of things that have happened to us in the past, things buried deep in our subconscious memories. It takes a lot of hard work to break through these barriers we’ve created for ourselves, but when we get a glimpse of what the world outside of our perception is like, there’s no turning back.
To start practicing ‘satya’ in daily life, begin by just taking a step back and observing how you feel in certain situations. Are you anxious about upcoming events? Regretting something that has already happened? Angry with a friend? Notice how these feelings are always changing, therefore they aren’t ‘unchangeable‘, they’re not real or true. In a physical yoga practice, we can experience this truth by practicing with a ‘beginner’s mind’ – treating each yoga posture as completely new to you – letting go of attachment or expectations of how anything should look or feel.
Honesty will show us where we’re perhaps pushing ourselves too hard, or where we can afford to step outside of the comfort zone a little. For those who feel like they already have a lot of experience, this is especially useful, as it’s important to remember that yoga will always be a practice that can never be perfected. And why would we want it to be perfect anyway? The best thing about our practice is that there’s always a different way to do something, a new way to learn, it’s a practice that literally lasts a lifetime.