August 13, 2013

The Yamas Uncovered: Truth, Truth, Nothing But the Truth. ~ Katinka Sætersdal Remøe

Have you noticed how hard it can be to speak the truth?

To be honest and sincere in your communication with others?

To be true to yourself in relation to others?

When we start to think about it, how much of what we say is exaggeration? Or based more upon supposition and imagination than what we know for sure to be true?

Maybe more than we think. At least that has been my experience over the past month.

In order to keep up with my commitment to some independent studying on the yamas (check out my previous post on ahimsa), I’ve tried exploring satya, truthfulness, over the past weeks. This has implied dwelling a moment or two on the honesty of what I am about to say in conversation with others, as well as getting clearer on my values and how to stand by them.

(Ok, so claiming that I do a truthfulness-of-speech analysis every time I say something would be to exaggerate, let’s just say that I have tried bringing a bit more awareness as to the sincerity of what I say, do, think etc…).


For those unfamiliar with the concept, Satya is the second of the five yamas, the ethical principles that according to the wise Patanjali will help us live in harmony with ourselves and with those around us. Satya means “truthfulness,” and is based on the perception that in order to have a healthy relationship of any kind, with our family, friends and lovers, with our jobs, the organizations we’re involved in, and yes, even with the government, we have to be honest.

We have to speak the truth. 

I think we can all agree on how this sounds very reasonable. Indeed, isn’t this the image we want to have of ourselves? To be a person with integrity, a person known for being honest and with the right values? Yup. But the theory of something can be rather different from its practical translation.

Or to put it differently, reading about being honest and agreeing with that is different from actually living it.

So what does it mean to live it? How do we translate satya into real-life?

Living satya

The thing is, in order to be honest with others and to speak sincerely, we have to be honest with ourselves. And that implies knowing ourselves, our values and our needs. Like REALLY knowing them. It also implies learning to separate what you want to be and what others want you to be from what you really are.

And that can be quite a tricky learning process as you’ll have to face parts of yourself that you’d rather not see.

Since I’m speaking about honesty here, let me throw in a lil’ piece of truth:

Writing this blogpost was a major nut and I’ve had a writer’s block like no other (explains why it’s been a draft for pretty much a month). But, given how I’d made a commitment to writing about the yamas, I couldn’t throw it away and I kept working on it (though I did take a 10 day break eloping into the mountainous beauty of northern Norway, no computers allowed), and I’ve been slightly annoyed with how slow it’s been going.

The reason why it’s been so hard (and this came to me during a lecture in yoga philosophy with my teacher Alexander Medin) is because satya is what yoga is all about.

Getting clearer about what is and what’s not.

Getting clearer about what’s true in that terrible monkeymind of ours that’s so fertile for awesome as well as not so awesome ideas, images and thoughts.

And that’s a never ending process which is impossible to grasp in a blogpost.

But then again, my intention with this “uncovering-satya” post is not to figure out what “the real me” is but to throw some light onto the concept. And to figure out how I best can practice it.

So, to me practicing being honest means the following:

That I have to tell my friend face-to-face why I hold a grudge and not talk about it behind her back.

That I have to tell my boss when I’m running out of time and need help on a project, even if it means sharing the credit of the outcome with someone else.

That I have to be honest with my tax returns and spend the extra time needed as a self-employed to fill in my tax form (yes, I speak from experience, filling in a tax form as a self-employed as opposed to being a government employee is slightly more complicated, at least in Norway…). 

That I have to be honest with myself in regards to a lover. Of what I want from him. Of  what I can get. Of whether future hopes and dreams are the same and based on what’s real, right here and right now.

And what do we get for being truthful? Besides integrity, sincerety and a jolly good conscience?

“Upon being established in the truth, there is surety in the result of actions.”~ Patanjali Yoga Sutras II: 36

What we get is uncertain and that’s the beauty of it. However, as emphasized by Patanjali, what’s certain is that by being honest with ourselves and others we will be rewarded in some way or another. Maybe by getting a true insight into what we are meant to do with these beautiful lives of ours…!



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Ed: Bryonie Wise



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