The basic “do’s” and “don’ts” of Yoga philosophy are called the ‘Yamas’ and ‘Niyamas.’ Sourced from the ancient Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, they illustrate universal truths of the human condition and practical, applicable solutions for a better way of life... for everyone.
The ‘Yamas’, five “don’ts”, describe impulses in human nature that may lead to devastation if left uncontrolled. Last month I described the first Yama: ahimsa, or nonviolence.
The second Yama or restriction is satya: non-lying; honesty; truthfulness.
"Honesty is the best policy.” However, the experience of living with a traumatic mental health condition can nurture shame, stigma, "hiding out” and subterfuge - which all perpetuate misunderstanding. Without first taking a good, honest look at ourselves to understand our motivations, triggers and behaviors, we can make the wrong impression on others. That ain’t satya!
I have spent twenty years keeping tabs on my moods, ten of them unmedicated. I used my photographic memory to tally exactly who I had told, who knew about my diagnosis through word of mouth. This was exhausting. It celebrated my shame. That ain't satya!
My absolute adherence to self-honesty has become a personal mental health imperative. I no longer have to keep track of who’s in and who’s out.
In the last few years, I have begun revealing my diagnosis in a way that is open and invites conversation. I have exchanged fear of being found out for bravery, justified by working as a mental health advocate, researcher, writer, Yoga therapist and activist with lived experience of bipolar disorder. This work is desperately needed.
I am a survivor of a sister who committed suicide, a drug addict with untreated bipolar disorder. Addictions of all kinds also perpetuate shame, lying and misunderstanding.
By no longer wishing that things were different than they are, resilience in the face of change becomes possible.
I grieve and can thrive by the grace of satya.
It is said that upon mastery of this Yama, whatever one says will come true. Not lying is humbling, reminding me that I am human - not superhuman and certainly not perfect. Outward circumstances can definitely still throw me into disharmony. Life isn’t predictable. I can stick to my word, however, which anchors me in a storm. Choosing satya alone engages me in recovery. I remain teachable. I can admit when I am wrong... and when I am right... and when circumstances aren’t black or white.
In the flow of reality that being truthful celebrates, my place in the world becomes pliant. I don’t have to be lodged in shame. My relationships are more authentic and fulfilling. I am not as lonely as I once was.
My personal integrity has bloomed. Satya practice nurtures my intuition and confidence.
A side effect of being an honest person is that those who are not honest reveal themselves very quickly. In this way, satya practice has helped me develop my discernment.
I earn the self-worth that I deserve.
Without the intent to deceive myself or others, my life becomes exponentially more workable.
Honesty supports a sane life.
I strive to practice all the Yamas and Niyamas regardless of outside circumstances. Adherence to practicing ahimsa and satya, in that order, plus medication, therapy, Yoga and a solid network of trusting and trustworthy friends, all contribute to my very stable, hopeful and cheerful demeanor and to making me a well-liked, respected and successful member of my community.
Next month: Yama #3: ashteya: non-stealing.