Kindness (Ahimsa) comes before truthfulness (Satya) in the Yoga Sutras. This is significant. While we should strive to be truthful in all we think, say and do, this should never come at the expense of doing harm.
There are times when speaking the truth might be hurtful. Do you really need to tell someone that their dress looks horrible? (Note: this is an opinion rather than a truth). Can you find ways to be truthful that are helpful instead? If not, Ahimsa comes first – avoid speaking a truth that could do harm.
In applying Satya, it is important to avoid being judgmental. Judgments are based on opinions – they are not truth (see my previous blog on what is truth). Most of us tend to judge ourselves harshly, to feel we are not good enough. But these are opinions, not facts, and they are harmful. Being judgmental is not Satya and not Ahimsa. So why do we do it?
The emotional part of our brain responds to stimuli far more quickly than the logical part. This can lead us to make emotional decisions that might be hurtful to ourselves or to others if we act without taking time to think.
The practice of mindfulness teaches us to observe our thoughts and to pause for a moment before reacting. This provides time for the logical brain to engage. By engaging the logical brain, we see more clearly and are better equipped to see the truth.
Lasater suggests it is no accident that Satya is included as one of the Yamas – which are defined as restraints. This is because we need to slow down (restrain) our thinking if we are to see the truth. Before we react to a “fact” or opinion that differs from our own beliefs, we should take a moment to observe or thoughts. Before saying something to another person, or making a judgement about yourself, consider the three gates:
- Is it true?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it kind?
Referance: Lasater, Judith (2007) Start Practicing Satya (Truth) On and Off Your Mat, https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/to-tell-the-truth.
Psychologists have found that being Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (HALT) can result in our emotional side taking over and completely ignoring our logical side.
If you ever need to make an important decision when you are Hungry/Angry/Lonely/Tired, try a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodana) to balance the left and right sides of the brain, followed by a few minutes sitting quietly in meditation, before thinking through the decision.