What Satya Looks Like In The Modern World- Part 2…

What Satya Looks Like In The Modern World- Part 2

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga (Ashta=eight; Anga= limbs) refers to the eight fold path of Yoga as described in the Raja Yoga section of the yoga philosophy.

Its practice helps us to discriminate between ignorance and awareness and truth from illusion, which is the means for liberation or enlightenment.

The practice of yoga embraces every moment of our lives, and so our ethics — our guiding principles of conduct — are essential to reflect upon and study.

On the foundation of the yogic path of self-regulation lie ethical and moral precepts, which are specific examples of the standards or guidelines that contribute to self-control.

These ethical precepts are contained in the first and second limbs of Patanjali’s eightfold yoga path, namely yama and niyama, respectively.

In my last post I wrote about the first ethic within Yama — Ahimsa or Non-Harm.

There are five precepts under Yama, and the second is called Satya.

SEE ALSO: Understanding The First 2 Limbs Of Ashtanga Yoga: A Code Of Ethics – part 1





Yama refers to ethics regarding the outside world, and therefore is particularly important in social contexts.

It comprises non-harm, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation of senses, and greedlessness.

2. Satya — Honesty

Satya (pronounced “saht-yah”) is speaking the truth with a spirit of kindness or benevolence and living an honest life.

Practicing Satya is about becoming whole and reclaiming the disowned parts of ourselves.

Honesty is the only route toward wholeness, and wholeness is Yoga.

Satya is honesty, which allows us to put down the burden of superficial perfectionism and join the human race.

Anger is sometimes a lie — it can often mask deeper feelings that are difficult to face.

Dealing with anger in the spirit of Satya helps us go deeper.

Rather than surrendering to the impulse to harm someone with words, we can spend some time discovering the pain and fear that underlies the mask of anger.

By observing the tightening of our defenses, the way we direct our feelings, the moments that make up these experiences in the body and mind, we can bring a different kind of energy to them.

Satya requires us to be vulnerable by being truthful about our feelings.

As simple as it sounds, this is the stuff of intense spiritual practice.

Satya in our relationships with others means honesty and the right use of words with a spirit of benevolence — it is, therefore, intrinsically tied to Ahimsa.

There is a difference between Satya and Rta, which means objective, brutal truth.

Satya means delivering bad news with an awareness of how that news will affect the person we are telling.

It means protecting others who need our protection.

For example, shielding an innocent person from an untrue accusation or giving support to the testimony of someone we know to be telling the truth, even when these actions are uncomfortable for us.

Satya in Our Families

With our children, Satya means being as honest with them as is suitable for their age and who they are.

It’s not healthy to tell them everything about our lives, our inner process, our fears, our relationships with others.

Neither is it healthy or benevolent to withhold ourselves from our children, or to withhold the entire adult world from them.

Communicating with children involves a constant evaluation of what is appropriate for them.

They need a gradual midwifing into their adulthood so that they can start the process of being responsible, kind, honest, and understanding people.

It starts with being able to see their parents as human beings who suffer, who are sometime confused, who sometimes make mistakes.

Many of us grew up in households where an honest display of emotion was not allowed.

Parents were not supposed to share their feelings with their children; parents were supposed to appear godlike, perfect, and strong.

This withholding of feeling does’t work to bring people closer.

Many people in my generation struggle to have an honest relationship with their parents now that they are older, and they resolve to be closer to their own kids.

We have begun to realize that honesty is important to close relationships; it doesn’t reduce our power, it enhances it.

In addition, many of us were emotionally stunted by our upbringing: we were told not to cry, not to express anger or sadness or even pain.

An Example of Satya — Beginning with Our Kids

When my son was a newborn, he was colicky. He hardly ever slept.

I spent night after night awake with him.

As I lost sleep I became more and more frustrated with his crying.

It seemed that as I grew more frustrated, the crying became louder and longer.

One night I found myself having fantasies of shaking him or striking him or throwing him out the window.

Appalled at myself, I put him in his crib and went into the bathroom and cried.

My pain at not being able to do anything for him and my frustration and exhaustion had reached its limit.

As I sat and cried, I heard his cries from the other room.

I began to think that perhaps contributing to my feelings of anger was my own withholding of my feelings from him.

With Satya on my mind, I decided I couldn’t be any more miserable than I already was, and neither could my baby.

So why not share my feelings with him?

I went to him and held him in my arms and began to walk back and forth as I had before.

He cried, and I cried too.

I cried out loud; I cried as loud as he cried. After several minutes, he began to calm down and he looked at me inquiringly.

I told him how frustrated I felt, how sorry I was that I couldn’t do anything that would really help him, how much I loved him, and how terrible I felt that I had abusive thoughts.

I told him all this looking into his eyes, and he seemed to be listening.

At that moment I stepped through a doorway into a relationship of honesty with my child that was to last a lifetime.

From that moment on, I listened to my child when he cried and I simply tried to be there for him in the way that I needed someone to be there for me when I cried.

We’ve been able to share our lives, and while he respects me as his mother, he also knows that he has someone with whom his is safe — even in states of anger, fear, frustration, and pain.

He knows his mom isn’t perfect and doesn’t expect him to be perfect.

He knows it’s okay to say, “I’m sorry,” and that struggle with feelings is a part of being human.

If children are to grow up being honest, and thus benefiting themselves and the world with the power of their integrity, they need honest models.

They need to see us expressing our feelings honestly, owing up to our mistakes, and telling the truth in all the little ways that compose the greater truth to which we aspire.


Denial is acting as if we don’t see the truth.

It can be a healthy defense; it is the first stage in the grieving process, for example — a stage that helps us absorb the magnitude of a loss a little at the time.

It is a shock absorber, and helps protect us from truths we cannot face.

But in everyday life, denial leads to disharmony within ourselves and to family dysfunction.

We can practice Satya by allowing ourselves to become safe enough and strong enough to cope with the truth.

Every day, in small ways, we can build strength and safety by taking care of ourselves and being honest with ourselves, by acknowledging what we cannot change and taking small steps toward changing the things we can.

If we grow up in an environment that prohibits or discourages an honest sharing of feelings and experiences, we never learn how to be honest appropriately.

A no-talk rule may apply to one thing, such as sexual abuse or mental illness, but that one thing is connected to so many others that we must lie to ourselves and each other constantly just to uphold it.

We can fool ourselves into thinking that as long as we don’t talk about something, it doesn’t exist.

Satya includes a respectful attempt to understand the experience of others and use our own words to heal rather than harm.

Affirmation for Satya:

I am honest with myself today. I communicate my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs with kindness in all my relationships. I choose to speak and act with integrity



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