Yamas in the 21st Century. Yama #2 Satya: Non-Lying


Honestly, how honest do you think you are?

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  1. Do you do any of the following? 1. Say you’re 2 minutes away when you’ve only just left the house

  2. Put a post on instagram saying you’re somewhere fabulous when you’re sitting at home in your PJ’s

  3. Tick the box ‘I have read and agreed’ when you scrolled straight to the bottom

  4. Said you were fine when someone asked but you feel like shit

  5. Say you loved the dinner that was cooked for you but are gagging it down

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Yep any of them ring a bell? But does it matter? Where does honestly and being rude cross the line?

According to the University of California we tell around 200 lies a day and the University of Massachussets 60% of people will tell a lie in the first 10 minutes of meeting someone. Are we doomed? Should we stop at yama number 2?

Of course I am talking about little white lies. Most of the time harmless and the intention behind them is to not hurt the other’s feelings, avoid an awkward situation and get yourself out of something you just don’t want to do. If we were basing our actions off ‘The subtle art of not giving a f*&k’ we would not give a f*@k and say what we really think BUT I think most of us want to maintain our friends and family. I choose to follow the words of the Buddha who said ‘one should only speak that word by which one would not torment oneself or others.’

We can also reflect back to the previous yama, ahimsa, and contemplate when does telling the truth cross the line into becoming harmful or painful?

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So Let’s define 2 types of lying:

Lies of commission – deliberate attempts to deceive

Lies of omission – failing to mention something

Both of these types of lying are not okay but, again, if we take into account the intention behind them and if the intention is for good could we overlook the lie? Have you seen Liar, Liar with Jim Carrey? He suddenly can’t stop telling lies and hilariously get’s himself into all kinds of sticky situations. Carrey plays a man who has lost his ethics and is prepared to do whatever it takes regardless of the truth of the matter. The film is also in part a treatment of the everyday process of lying that makes up much adult communication – it is a normal and accepted part of this social interaction. Many kinds of lies are examined in the film, from outright lies, to manipulations and exaggerations of the facts, to betrayals of trust and fibs to spare people’s feelings or avoid commitment. The adult world needs lies, the film suggests, but is there a deeper moral or ethical situation at hand or is it needed in the 21st century?

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So I think the white lies of omission to avoid hurting someone (ahimsa) are acceptable to a degree BUT what about lying to yourself? This brings us back to the inner critic convincing us of the worst or maybe even the opposite of deluding ourselves that everything is going to be okay clinging to hope. Is living in hope to avoid a harsher reality a bad thing? Everyone needs a pair of rose tinted glasses sometimes right?

This can especially be true when looking at high performance athletes who psyche themselves up before a game. Visualising something that you want to happen as if it is already happened has been proven to show higher success rates. If we believe it we can make it. Manifesting and visualisation is also very trendy, and for good reason, with therapists and coaches. Positive affirmations in combination with these other tools can reprogram the brain to achieve better success at work, in love and in mental health.

But when is it important to know where to draw the line?

So how can we link this to our practice? Ever heard your yoga teacher tell you to be honest with yourself? Slow down? Only go as far as your body lets you? How often do you listen? How often are you really honest with yourself and take it slow, don’t let the ego get in the way and do what would be better for you? This brings into question if we can really decipher the truth our bodies are trying to tell us? This is a skill in itself. Again having proprioception, awareness and an ability to tune in and listen. If we hype ourselves up too much we will block out our pain receptors therefor leaving us vulnerable to injury.

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Satya and ahimsa are so closely linked that to practice satya the best we can we need to be tuning into ahimsa at the same time. If we allow the two to guide each other in what we say, how we act and how we practice yoga then hopefully any white lies we tell will remain for the greater good and saving face.

Meegan Bradley

Meegan Bradley

Yoga Trainer & Wellness Coach

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