Of course, truthfulness is a perfect reflection. It brings with it an indomitable strength and, a most tender benevolence. Truthfulness is an act of service. It requires courage. It requires energy, patience, and generosity. It gives rise to wisdom and frees us from that which causes suffering. Truthfulness is the stout hull of the boat of intention. It allows us to navigate the waves with integrity.
The first dimension of truthfulness may seem pretty straight forward. Don’t lie. We all learned something about that in our youth, no matter how spiritual, moral or emotionally attuned our caregivers were. Truthfulness is a basic tenet of civil society and justice systems are designed to uphold it.
Yet, we have such a hard time with it! Humans easily and readily use half-truths, un-truths and every “version” of truth they can think of. Perhaps our practice of truthfulness can start there.
Truth is a refuge. It is the pure self. It allows us to see and be seen with all of our complexity. Often (usually,) the variations of the truth that come forth are motivated by emotion… as is the case with most of our actions, words, and even thoughts.
Perhaps we are ashamed, embarrassed or disappointed by our truth and we don’t want others to see it. It’s the same instinct that gets us up and cleaning the house when we know someone is coming over… right? That’s not just me, right?
In some ways this expression can be realized as an attempt to protect others. I know this is especially true for me when I know that a friend who keeps their house impeccably clean and organized is coming over. I don’t want them to be uncomfortable in the midst of my mess. So, we do this with emotion too, perhaps especially when we are engaging with someone who seems particularly unable to manage theirs. Maybe we’ve all had the experience of “walking on eggshells.”
We do have an effect on other people, of course. We are not however, responsible for their emotions, nor can we control them. To be mindful of how we move through and share space with others is one perspective we can take on truthfulness… to be mindful of how we move and share space within our own mind and heart is another, and equally true.
Therefore, the practice of truthfulness includes both a heightened awareness of how we communicate with others, and, how we communicate with ourselves.
In yoga therapy, we use a model of human experience that is multi-layered. It is delicious and complex like the sourdough cinnamon roll depicted above! It helps us to understand where and how things can get tangled, blocked, or obscured. For when the paths are clear, from the surface to the depths of our soul… we, as the sutras say “shine in our own splendor.” Clearing the paths is the work of the practice. With asana practice we clear residue and encourage movement through the body, with mindfulness practices we do the same for the mind and heart.
In this multi-layered model there is a distinction between a “mental” layer and an “emotional” one. Getting through the thinking and into the feeling that precipitates a communication will help you to cultivate truthfulness.
You can try these as practices to help reveal truths:
- When inclined to start a communication with “I think…” pause, try again, this time start with “I feel…” Initially, you might only realize the opportunity once you have heard yourself say the words aloud. That’s ok. Take note of the situation, you can come back to it later. To focus the practice, take some time for personal reflection. Use a journal if that’s helpful. Watch the movement of the mind and tag the “I think” thoughts… dive deeper into the experience with an investigation of the feeling.
- Try avoiding the the verbs ‘is,’ ‘are’ or ‘am’ to encourage awareness of impermanence. You might rephrase “I am lazy” as “I feel unmotivated.”
- When communicating with (or reflecting on) other people, try to avoid using the word ‘you.’ If you focus instead on the (multi-layered) experience within, you will likely find some additional truth revealed.
I am ever honored to share in your presence and so grateful for your practice.