Satya: Living Truly Aligned

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Truth is a slippery concept, never as objective as we’d like it to be. Our truth depends just as much on our experiences and point of view as it does on observable fact (much to the disappointment of climate scientists and vaccine developers). In yoga, the word for truth is satya. And, as we work toward satya in the practice, we have to overcome kleshas. Kleshas are things that get in the way of our seeing clearly; to overcome them, we ask the question: “What do I need to unlearn in order to see clearly?”

It is easier to learn something than to unlearn something. If we learn from our childhood that the world is harsh and dangerous, or competitive and cut throat, it may take a lifetime of work to overcome this mindset in order to see things more objectively and clearly.

So, we chase truth, knowing that our definition of truth will be constantly evolving. It may be impossible to find a permanent, consistent truth that applies evenly in all situations in our lives over a long period of time. Instead, we may need to learn what is true for us right now, according to our best efforts to see things clearly.

In class, we’ve been working with this definition: satya is available to us when we are in full alignment. This means what we are feeling, thinking, and saying/doing all match up. In other words, if our physical, mental, and emotional landscape is aligned, we will be acting according to our present truth. Part of what we do when we come to the cushion or mat is discover which of these elements is out of alignment.

How do we know?

When we sit or practice, we pay attention to what distracts us from the present. Sometimes, it is a physical sensation like pain or heat. Sometimes, it is an emotion like boredom or anxiety. Sometimes, it is a repetitive thought or concern. Whatever it is that takes us out of present is the thing that is not aligned in our life. We take the time to notice, without concern of whether or not we can “fix” the problem right then.

The simple act of noticing can often bring us into alignment without force.

Years ago, a meditation teacher taught me to respond to distraction with the smallest possible action. So, if I wanted to move my leg, I could try wiggling a toe. When I made huge corrections, in short order I would find the need to make another huge correction. I was constantly overshooting the mark in search of alignment. When I sat and noticed, made a very minor correction, then noticed again, my distractions also became more and more minor. Eventually, I could be still.

Try it.