An Honest Guide for Your Daily Life: Truthfulness (Satya) and introducing the THINK-method.
‘Tell me the truth’, my mum said. ‘The truth’, I answered. I was three years old and honestly I had no idea what ‘the truth’ meant.
I can’t remember if I took something that wasn’t mine or if she thought I had lied. Whatever it was, most of us are taught that lying is a bad thing and we must always speak the truth. Yet, we lie. We lie all the time. We lie about how delicious something tastes, how well we’re doing, how bad we are at something, or how talented someone is. And, we even lie about the fact that we never lie.
Lying takes many forms from ignorance to exaggeration, pride, fear and insecurity. Lies lie in your subconscious, but also on the tip of your tongue. We display them in our actions, thoughts and words, day in day out.
In yoga, the second Yama (social ethic) is called Satya. Satya is translated into English as ‘truthfulness’. Truthfulness is the opposite of telling lies. Truthfulness quite simply means thinking and speaking the truth or the fact of being realistic.
Let’s explore the reasons why we lie, what truthfulness (Satya) means and how we can introduce the THINK-method to your daily life.
Why do we lie?
Lying is a deeply ingrained human behaviour. Some of the best liars are criminals and politicians. They lie to create a better image, cover up bad behaviour, or quite frankly to save their asses. But you also lie. You lie to your friends, family, partners, colleagues, strangers and yourself. Research shows we lie to gain financial or personal benefits, protect others’ feelings, avoid certain people, to come across more polite, and more. 7% of the time the reason is unknown; sometimes we simply lie for no reason! (1)
You learn to lie between the ages of 2 and 5 which is when you’re experiencing many things for the first time and testing your independence. While many parents find their lying children worrying, Kang Lee, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, actually describes this as a comforting sign. It means their cognitive growth is on track. (1)
At the same time, you’re developing your morals, values, or at least learning to ‘live’ a certain way. You learn to lie, but don’t lie all the time or about everything. “We lie if honesty won’t work.” – Tim Levine.
However, you don’t live your life expecting others to lie, or verifying everything you hear. You perceive what you see and hear as reality and the truth. You hear what you want to hear, and you see what you want to see. This is especially true when the source is someone or something that you trust, or it confirms or emphasises what you already believe.
Are you a liar?
Yes. When was the last time you told yourself you’d wake-up in the morning without checking your phone first thing and you did it anyway? Tell me about a time you told yourself you’d clean the house, including the cupboard and you ‘forgot’. Or, how often have you told someone ‘it was amazing’, while inside you’re thinking it wasn’t as great as you made it sound.
When you think of lying, you think of the people you lie to, but creating awareness of how much you lie to yourself is just as important. The lies you tell yourself might not be as obvious or as damaging as you think. But these lies are often your limiting beliefs.
You tell yourself you can’t do it, you’re not good enough, you need to lose weight and so on.
Are these beliefs actual truths and facts? Probably not. They are probably little lies or biased versions of the truth, created by your perception of reality: not what is actually real or true.
- What kind(s) of lies do you tell? Write an example of a lie you told yourself or someone else recently.
- What are some of the common or repetitive things you tell yourself?
- Do these things express something negative about yourself?
- How true are they, if at all?
- Do you have proof that they’re true? What’s the evidence?
Satya: truthfulness or ‘to speak truth’
All the yamas go hand in hand. Truthfulness relates to forgiveness, not stealing, and not being possessive or violent. When practising one, you’re practising others. However, all of them have something unique to them.
“Speak the truth which is pleasant. Do not speak unpleasant truths. Do not lie, even if the lies are pleasing to the ear. That is the eternal law, the dharma.” – Heart of Yoga.
You might read this quote and find it a little confusing. Does this mean you should speak about the truth you like, but ignore the truth that you don’t like?
I believe that we should be able to speak about everything, even if it’s unpleasant. However, it’s the words and the moment you choose that make all the difference.
Apply truthfulness (Satya) and the THINK-method to your daily life:
To start consciously acting instead of reacting on impulse, you need to learn to THINK before you speak.
THINK stands for: True Helpful Inspiring Necessary Kind.
Next time you catch yourself ‘wanting to lie’, reacting from your emotion and telling someone the truth as you see or feel it in that moment, pause.
Stop your urge to act on your impulses and bring your awareness to your breath and sensations. Then, ask yourself: ‘Is what I want to say True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind?’
You can tell the truth if you think it is necessary and in a helpful, inspiring and kind way. Even if the truth is difficult for you or another person to face, using this method helps you do it in a way that is honest but not detrimental.
This requires strong awareness skills, but you can definitely train yourself! The THINK-method will help you to better understand yourself, other people, communicate more respectfully and verbalise your needs, wishes and desires accomplishing a healthy outcome.
Do you want to learn more about this topic or start integrating the THINK-method into your life, training specific scenarios and situations? Have a look at ‘The Ways We Love’: a course designed to create awareness around our relationships, your relationship with yourself and the Yamas (social ethics as described in yoga philosophy).
RESOURCES and RECOMMENDATIONS:
(1) Why we lie – Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, National Geographic
Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, a contributing writer, has also written about deception in his new book, The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell. He wrote about baby brains in January 2015. Dan Winters is an award-winning photographer based in Austin, Texas. This is his first feature assignment for the magazine.
Honest liars — the psychology of self-deception: Cortney Warren at TEDxUNLV
Catch me if you can – Steven Spielberg
The film about compulsive lying. This Steven Spielberg film is based on the life of Frank Abagnale, who successfully performed many different professions without having obtained a degree in anything.
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