I’ve been thinking a lot about truthfulness and what it means to speak your truth.
I recently had something difficult that I wanted to say to someone. They unintentionally did something hurtful. It was not a big thing and I could have let it go, as I would most often do in a situation like this. I could have carried on as though nothing had happened. But no, I decided the friendship was important enough to me to have the courage speak my truth. It wasn’t easy to do, for me or for them. But I’m glad I did. I felt the relief and freedom of having been true to myself. And perhaps I offered the other person a different perspective to consider.
Why do we hold back from speaking our truth or silencing our inner self? We usually hold back out of fear. Fear of hurting someone else’s feelings, fear of being misunderstood, of ridicule, rejection, or humiliation for example. It could be due to social conditioning or family tradition. Or perhaps our truth was not honoured in the past.
And why is it important? Speaking your truth is about speaking with honesty and integrity, which is so important for each of us as individuals and for society as a whole. It’s a way to create better connections with others. And it’s not just about honest words - it’s about being real and expressing your true self, your inner self, so that you can live your life with authenticity and integrity. And that’s really powerful. Especially if we all live this way.
To speak your truth and express your authentic self takes strength, courage and trust (of yourself and others). And it also involves self-knowledge and self-understanding. It can be the work of a lifetime to truly know and become your authentic self, as it evolves and reveals one facet after another. And as it does, you can take steps towards expressing your true self at any stage in life.
Speaking your truth is not always easy to do.
And of course there are better ways than others to do so. As yogis, we can look to yoga philosophy to find a very thoughtful way of exploring the topic of truthfulness. A quick reminder…yoga is so much more than just the poses. It’s a sophisticated system for living life with awareness and integrity. In the ancient yoga sutras, Patanjali laid out a pathway with 8 “limbs”. The Yamas and the Niyamas are the first two limbs of the path, the ethical foundations of all yogic thought. The 5 Yamas are set out to guide us on the way we behave towards others:
AHIMSA - nonviolence
SATYA - truthfulness
ASTEYA - nonstealing
BRAHMACHARYA - nonexcess
APARIGRAHA - nonpossessiveness
SATYA (a Sanskrit word) means impeccable truthfulness in thoughts, words and actions. SATYA guides us to build honesty-based relationships with others, and it begins by being honest with ourselves. This takes self-awareness and understanding. Mindfulness practices help us to be aware of our thoughts and patterns.Here are 4 ways to practice SATYA and to speak your truth.Speak with kindness
SATYA goes hand in hand with AHIMSA, nonviolence. It tells us that we need to consider what we say, how we say it, and how it will affect others. Can we be truthful and true to ourselves while remaining grounded in kindness and not harming others with our words and actions? Before you say something, ask yourself this:
Is it true?
Is it hurtful to somebody, directly or indirectly?
Is it necessary to say it?
If you look at communicating through the filter of these three questions, you may decide that you don’t have to tell everything to everybody. It’s certainly wrong to lie or withhold something important. But sometimes it’s better to not say anything. Sometimes silence is OK.
Speak with courage
Speaking your truth is not always easy or safe to do. But if you speak from the heart with compassion and kindness, it’s the ONLY thing to do. So when have something to say or to express in any way (either positive or negative) and feel hesitant to do so, stop and think for a minute about why you are hesitating. What are you afraid of? Think about if it’s worth letting go of your fear in order to speak your truth and express your authentic self. And speak with courage and confidence. After all, it’s the true you, with all your thoughts and ideas and talents and quirks, that people want to know. It’s the true you that will inspire others.
Listen with care
Speaking your truth begins by listening mindfully to others, by giving them your full attention. This might mean you speak a little less and listen more, ask more questions. If you are a talker, try to really notice what you say to others, notice whether or not your are truly attentive to their side of the conversation, notice if the conversation is balanced or more one-sided. Paying attention to this may be a lesson on better communication. And by truly listening, you honour the other and may even discover a fascinating window into their inner self.
Express yourself in many ways
Speaking your truth doesn’t always mean with spoken words. Allow yourself to express the many facets of your authentic self in as many ways as you like. Paint, write, bake, volunteer, counsel, take photos, dance, sing, create a business…whatever way is truly you, that comes from the heart. The world is waiting for you to the your unique inner self shine out!
To learn more about the Yamas and Niyamas, I invite you to discover "The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice" by Deborah Adele