Words by Phoebe White
Is who you are, who you portray to others? Do you feel like you get back from life, what you give to it? Are you content with the course you’re on?
Satya, translated from the Sanskrit as ‘truth’, is a key concept in yoga philosophy, a foundational step in the yogic path to inner peace and flow with the universe.
Navigating through life’s every day challenges with truth as your compass is a daily practice - past experiences, recent events, limiting beliefs, the needs of others and many other things can pull us off our sense of true course.
Living Your Truth
As the yogis say, living your truth is the practice of discerning through attention, whether your thoughts, actions and words portray your true self which, in turn means you’re able to pilot your way through the environment and your relationships in a way that authentically reflects your sense of identity.
To do this, we pay attention to our direct experience. On the yoga mat, it’s about staying with the felt and internal sense of the asana (posture) and the breath in the body rather than seeking to achieve an external aesthetic or getting lost in a narrative about what you should or shouldn’t be doing, or how well you are doing it in comparison to others.
Off the mat, this is about speaking up for yourself and showing up for the things that drive you. This isn’t an invitation for blunt honesty, self-criticism or workaholism (that wouldn’t be practicing ahimsa or kindness which I talked about in my last article). Rather, it’s about a gentle awareness to your values, beliefs, capabilities and behaviours so that what you call in to your life and in the lives of those close to you, serves you rather than weighs you down.
Easier said than done!
Everyone Else’s Expectations
I’m sure we’ve all got experience of trying to live and be in the world to fit an expectation from others or society at large, rather than speaking from our core values and truthfully about how we feel, what we think, what we want, what’s ok and what’s not, what’s important and what brings us joy.
In recent times, there’s been a surge of people living a more authentic life. Go back a few decades and think about how LGBTQ communities were forced into hiding by society’s expectations of loving relationships and how we’re now evolving a sense of our diverse truths, as these communities, and indeed others, embolden themselves in the cultural consciousness.
And consider how as a society, we’re no longer ok with the impact we’re having on the planet, how our behaviours are changing as we develop a greater value around protecting nature and life itself. There’s certainly still work to do and a guiding principle in yoga is that the work always starts within, with ourselves.
So how do we know if we’re being authentic? Well, we’re at ease with ourselves, we have confidence in our actions and project and receive positivity. We feel ‘on track’ with our mission which is clear and aligned with our identity and what role we play in our environment.
It organises our thinking into levels. Every person, or organisation of people, are a system of actions and/or behaviours that reflect values, beliefs and capabilities manifesting a mission in the world. By working through all these levels or layers of ourselves and our communities, we can align to authenticity.
As Einstien said:
So, when we encounter an obstacle on our path, we may try and fix it on the same level as the original problem (for example, stopping smoking but binging on sugar instead). But quitting a habit by replacing it with a new one may not help free you in the way you’d hoped.
However, by looking at the higher levels, examining the ‘why’ behind the behaviour, and addressing that, will result in the habit (a behaviour) will falling away.
Connecting with a value of a healthy quality of life, would mean a greater motivation to stop the behaviours of both smoking and eating nutritionally poor food. This may then have a positive impact on what you’re able to do in the world, like having more energy, money and time to help others.
So here’s a reflective exercise so you can apply this to your current state
First, take any milestone on your path, whether it be obstacle or issue, opportunity or completion point. Ask yourself these questions with a gentle and kind awareness. Stick to the direct experience, rather than any narrative, judgements or assessments.
- Where did this take place?
- When was it? What else was happening at that time?
- Who else was there? What did they want? Who wasn’t there?
- Was I comfortable?
- What did I do?
- What did I say?
- What did I not do or say?
- Did I do all I could do? (remember gentle awareness!)
- How did I say or do it?
- How did I learn to do it?
- How did/ do I talk about it?
- Did I find it easy?
Beliefs and Values
- Why did I do it?
- Why was/ is it important to me?
- What did I believe about myself that motivated me to start?
- Did I expect it would happen the way it turned out?
- Did my feelings about myself get in the way or help me out?
- Who was I? Am I always this way?
- What was my role?
- Did I enjoy it?
- What about it made a difference? To who?
- What’s next?
- Do I want to do it again?
Notice if questions are easier to answer in one level than another – this will give you insight on where you’re leading from. If your ‘environment’ is setting your course through life, it may be that you feel reactive and unable to action your own wishes. Or perhaps you notice you can only speak negatively about a skill or wish you didn’t repeat an old behaviour which may mean that you’re navigating from your limiting beliefs. Or maybe you felt at odds with the outcome achieved, suggesting that perhaps it wasn’t in line with your mission.
Let’s use the levels again but this time, asking the questions the other way around so that we lead from our truth.
Take a deep breath and clear your mind.
- What else?
- What’s bigger than me?
- What’s most important?
- What brings me joy?
- Where do I belong?
- What makes me tick?
Beliefs and values
- Why are these things important?
- What do I believe is possible in the world, and therefore for me?
- How will I live, speak and act to reflect this?
- What will I learn?
- What will I do or talk about that reflects all of the above?
- Where will I be? What will I see, hear and feel in the world around me that reflects these truths?
- How will my relationships with others feel?
Take a moment to compare your reflections on each question set, you may want to start a new behaviour, challenge a limiting belief, learn a new skill or call an old mate.
Use this second set of questions to set your course as often as you can to develop your neurological muscles to breath truth through all your endeavours.
If you’d like personalised support in aligning your course, either in person or online, get in touch!
A long serving Londoner, Phoebe is a qualified practitioner in Neurolinguistic Programming, life coach and yoga teacher, and experienced singer songwriter. She’s been leading workshops in a range of personal development topics and supporting people to achieve their goals for over 15 years. She teaches and sings regularly in North London and all around the world. You can find her over on instagram, facebook