For the past week, I have been thinking a lot about satya (truthfulness) and ahimsa (non-violence) – the first two Yamas (social restraints) as described by Patanjali in the yoga sutras. In particular, I have been attempting to transverse the rough territory of wanting to speak honestly in every situation, while also being mindful as to not cause any unnecessary harm to myself, to the listener, or to the relationship between us through my words or actions.
As I have been working with these ideas – and in particular Judith Lasater’s assertion that truthfulness can only be practiced when one has first adhered to the principal of ahimsa (i.e. doing no-harm) – I’m beginning to find that although my actions may not suggest any grandiose forms violence or dishonesty – for example I’m not a mercenary, a corrupt politician, or a used car salesmen selling faulty cars – there are many subtle ways in which I am behaving both violently and dishonestly towards myself and others.
The best example of this subtlier form of dishonesty (asatya) and violence (himsa) that comes to mind is agreeing to do something you don’t really want to do because social convention says it is the ‘nice’ thing to do. In such instances, the act of agreeing to do something you do not want to do is violent and dishonest: towards yourself because you are not honoring your own truth of wanting/needing to do something else, towards the other person because you are not trusting them enough to share your truth, and towards the relationship because the forced agreement can often create a bit of distancing between two individuals.
So although, it might be considered rude to say no to a particular social norm, it perhaps is more hurtful to you, the other person, and the relationship between the two of you to act, speak or behave in a way that doesn’t fully honor your own truth.
The question I have for you, the question I have been working to consider myself is the following: In what subtle ways might you be violating the principals of ahimsa (doing no harm) or satya (truthfulness) in your everyday lives? They could be lies of omission, agreeing to do something you do not wish to do, or forcing yourself into an asana or situation that doesn’t suit your physical needs. Whatever they are, I would like you to really ask yourself what are the perceived benefits of doing so and, more importantly, what are the costs?