Satya is one of the five ethical principles of yoga, or yamas. In brief, it means truthfulness, denying reality neither to ourselves nor others. It goes deeper than simply telling the truth, which itself requires an understanding of what exactly truth is, but it also means seeing things for what that they are without the lens clouded by our own experiences and opinions.
Our expression of satya must be in line with the yama of ahimsa, or non-violence. Though the truth itself might seem overwhelming, scary, depressing, cruel or violent, our sharing of truth must always be done with utmost compassion and understanding. Our words must reflect reality, but possess the caring human element that reality often lacks. Satya must serve a higher purpose, it must serve others and ourselves.
So, what is truth? I think of truth as the baseline of reality, the flat line from which random spikes and valleys occur like a heartbeat on a monitor. It is the unaffected stillness that runs through our lives and the world around us when untouched by opinion, untouched by judgment. For example, a truth of life is that it ends. Death itself is neither good nor bad, neither depressing nor joyful. It is through our own experience of the event of death that it is given these adjectives.
This brings me to the topic of the Little White Lie. Is it acceptable? Perhaps. Little White Lies as they are called are "lies" told for the benefit of others. Sometimes, they might not be lies at all but simply the humble concession of opinion. For example, the answer to the question "Does this outfit look bad?" can be "No" when you feel that indeed it does. Satya here is maintained, because we have to realize that our opinions are not the truth, and if our opinion could hurt someone's feelings or insult them it would be against the philosophy of ahimsa. The outfit doesn't actually look bad; it is just an outfit, and as such is neither good nor bad.
I was thinking about truth today, which is why I decided to write about it. I had a bad day, but if someone asked me how my day was, I would have felt perfectly comfortable telling them it was great.
I took the kids to the library today, where my son was engaged in running full force around the children's area, smacking the aquarium, throwing tantrums, drawing all eyes on me while my daughter was doing who knows what because I couldn't keep an eye on both of them. Deciding the library wasn't the right place for us today, I took them to the park where these bursts of energy and noise are not only better received, but are fully expected.
While at the park, I had to chase two toddlers running in various directions over potentially dangerous tall playground equipment that was a little too advanced for their ages. I had to stop several attempts to run into the parking lot, to run in front of the kids swinging. Then my daughter had to use the bathroom, which involved gathering them both up despite a horrific tantrum from a little boy terrified of the dark public restroom. As I was covering the seat with toilet paper, I turned around to find two kids with their hands in a puddle on the public restroom floor. The sink was too high to wash their hands, so I had to rinse soap off their hands by cupping water and splashing it on them because I couldn't complete the balancing act that would have been required to hold a child on a bent knee while trying to get the motion-sensitive water to turn on, reach the child over and help rinse his or her hands before the water shut itself off. They enjoyed it; I didn't.
Finally, when it came time to leave the park I had to contend with tears from both children. Mothers and caretakers at the park in a well-to-do neighborhood who had their noses otherwise buried in their cell phones turned their perfectly coiffed heads to watch us leave, my threenager pulling me back and screaming that she didn't want to go, my other toddler balanced on my hip trying to nosedive into the wood chips that lined the playground.
When we made it home after stopping at the grocery store, I found that my rescue cat who still maintained some bad habits from living in a cat hoarding situation had managed to get rotten raw chicken out of the garbage can and spread its odorous juices all over my kitchen floor.
My experience with today, the impatience, the exasperation, the exhaustion, the feeling of just wanting to throw my hands into the air and announce my surrender, were just peaks and valleys on the steady base line of my reality.
The reality is that we went to the library, we went to the park. We went to the grocery store where we were able to comfortably afford fresh, nutritious food for dinner. There is still a roof over our head, a kitchen to cook in, cats lounging comfortably in the windows. So the day was a little difficult, a little messy, a little noisy. I am deeply loved, and I deeply love.
Saying that my day was great really isn't a lie, is it?