As part of the Axis Teacher Training program, students experiment with select Yamas (observances) and Niyamas (restraints) in their daily lives. The following student account of a Satya experiment reveals one person’s observations about raw self-expression.
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Satya, truth. What is truth? One of the dictionary definitions of the word is, “the state or character of being true,” for me this is a typical idea of what truth is and can be, the next definition is, “actuality or actual existence.” The embodiment of truth is expression, expression of raw human experience, the flux of life that allows us to grow. I approached this project from an understanding that my heart had been lacking in a vital way. To mend that deficit I decided to implement creative methods such as writing, drawing, painting to use the inspiration and insight seen in daily life moments.
I set out with the intention of simply observing life to see what inspires me to create or be human; implying that to create reveals your humanity. I instated a meditation session first thing in the morning to still my mind and allow for if not a control but an awareness of its waves, that way I could view true inspiration and use it to form my humanity. In my daily life with work, family, friends I kept in mind the awareness of the muse, not to a point of looking for it, rather openness to it. The first week consisted of these practices. I found that I was able to contemplate why I wake up in the morning and could change that reason from oh I have to work to, I want to go see what is outside or there is a genuine conversation out there to be had. Every day for that first week I wrote a poem or drew something in order to exercise the creative flow. This enabled me to see patterns in my thoughts and life, a way of organizing on paper. Another way to penetrate creative truth into life I attended one particular highly diverse open mic in Denver. It is called LadySpeech, the performers interpret life in a colorful range of ways, when listening and being involved with a spectrum of experience and view-points my own imagination sparks cords and observes my life from new perspectives.
I found that by honing my creative inspiration and applying it I am in sync with and a part of the rawness of emotion enables me to see patterns of emotion and true expression of it. There is also a free flow to existence, rather than feeling stuck or suppressed by every day cycles they have become healing because by writing I can see what matters to me and what does not (annoyances have become nonchalant). Another part of what I learned is that I inhibit myself from conveying by speaking; this has lifted because I don’t want to miss any part of sharing my true self with others or being witness to another’s truth. When I don’t hold back and I say what I feel, even when I’m nervous to (not hurtful things) it feels like I lay a bit of myself before you, this is even stronger in a performance setting the few times that I have participated in an open mic (a fair bit out of my comfort zone) it felt like I was laying out my soul for the audience. This is also apparent to me when watching others perform, they truly put themselves in a vulnerable position and it turns around as a therapeutic practice for some, this is true for me because I have a small voice and all the attention garnered from performing is almost unnerving but once what is said is said there is a release of the idea or emotion.
“Everything we are observing is at once specific to us alone and at the same time interconnected to the universal structure of all that is outside ourselves,” (MOY, pg 16). When listening or looking at another person’s art I’ve had to set aside my ideas/judgments and become like a sponge to absorb the nutrients of the others illustration laid before me. While undertaking the experiment I had a conversation with a friend who freestyle raps, he was talking about an intense flow he experienced; he was watching himself form strings of words from the corner of the room he said, “that’s dope, oh that’s dope too,” he interpreted the meaning of the words after he said them from an outside perspective. I felt it was interesting that he told me about this at the same time that I was involved in an experiment to use creative expression as a way to reach a true state of being because what he described to my understanding is a higher state of being.
The experiment of cultivating creative expression as means to become a part of a state of Satya filled me with joy which springs up from the minutest of things, like seeing leaves blown about in swirly patterns or patterns of colors of the cars in traffic, sharing tea with a loved friend or family. I have grown more responsible for my thoughts and the rashness of my actions, have bent into a brighter and clearer lifestyle. On a closing note it is interesting and humors me that my writing at this time reflects much of the language that is used in yoga; although my writing tends to lean towards that sort of organic and flowing mindset already, the yoga studies greatly compliment my style. I have come to the conclusion that writers are insanely sane, as are yogis.
Axis Yoga’s Teacher Training Program invites students to examine the habits and practices in their lives that may not be serving them, and then to apply a yogic principle to their lives in a student experient. This student chose to apply the principle of Satya, or Truthfullness, to her frustration and stress she feels in her car, rushing from one place to the next. Her experiment is as follows:
Upon reflecting over the last few weeks I realized that I did not find a lot of success with this project. This is not a self deprecating statement, but more of a reality which I will expound upon in my failures analysis. One success that I did find however was simply living my life more consciously. I never realized how many white lies I told over the course of a day until I actually had to try and stop doing it. Between the white lies and the embellishments 90% of my day seemed steeped in both illusion and delusion. This was humbling to say the very least.
Although I did not perform in the way that I wanted this is a life long practice. Putting self judgment aside, I think that it is important for me to attempt to continue living with more conscious awareness.
As part of Axis Yoga’s teacher training, students are invited to spend some time applying one of several yogic principles to their daily lives. Students reference principles such as non-harming and truthfulness as they relate to the practice of yoga. In the following paper, one student explores her understanding of truthfulness. She explores how truthfulness relates to her experience as a cyclist on the road as well as in her work as a paraprofessional at an elementary school. Her experiment leads to an expansion of her definition and understanding of the concept of living truthfully.
A few days after I made a commitment to implement satya, truth, into my daily life, I found that I’d slowed down my speech and made a greater effort to actively listen to my interlocutor. I thought that maybe I’d continue in this vein, but over the next two weeks, satya seemed to sneak up on me in forms that I had not anticipated. I began to refine my understanding of the Yama, and to explore more deeply various relationships through the lens of satya. I noticed a consistent struggle with the concept of satya in two relationships in particular: my relationship with my work environment and my relationship as a bicyclist with motorists on the road. Because satya has taken on personal meaning for me, I’ll first describe how I have interpreted it in my daily life, and then I’ll offer two examples that demonstrate how satya has transformed how I work in my job and how I ride my bike.
Satya is the second Yama. According to T.K.V. Desikachar, “yama” can mean more than simply an ethical precept. It can mean “a ‘discipline’ or ‘restraints,’” and Desikachar further suggests, an “‘attitude’ or ‘behavior’” (98). In particular, the Yamas refer to an attitude we adopt toward others: in this way, Satya confronts language, communication, and the ego in the tricky process of interacting with the world.
My colleagues and I had discussed in our initial meeting what satya means and our own understandings of how it might apply to us: why did we choose this Yama? My struggle with truth manifests itself overtly: often, it is obvious that I am not telling the truth. I hyperbolize, overstate, stretch, bend, and spin what would otherwise be true. We agreed to ponder the question: What is my motivation for non-truth? When and where does it happen? I hypothesized that I exaggerate for social reasons – for humor or shock value for example – in order to augment others’ perceptions of me. Through this experiment, I realized that also commit non-truth by omitting the truth.
In my process of examining satya, I began to consider the space that non-truth occupies. I find it useful to use the words “fabrication” and “omission” to describe that space. A fabrication is the creation of something that was not already there: for one who lies about the world her or she lives in, fabrication creates distance between the self and the world – between the subject and the object – the same subject-object distance that Derik described during his discussion of ahimsa. In his discussion of satya, B. K. S. Iyengar offers the following analogy, “as fire burns impurities and refines gold, so the fire of truth cleanses the yogi and burns up the dross in him” (33). Non-truth is rubbish. It is extra. I will examine my relationship as a bicyclist with motorists on the road from this perspective of fabrication.
Satya, as a restraint, means to control and limit non-truth. As I discussed, this can mean to refrain from amplifying the truth. It also implicates truth that should be spoken, but it not: omission, the negative space that non-truth occupies. I will examine my relationship with my work environment from the perspective of omission.
Non-truth, lies, fabrications, and omission prevent the subject from being fully present in the world. Satya asks the practitioner to confront the world.
I knew that I struggled with exaggeration, but the process of this experiment has challenged something I hadn’t acknowledged: that I often hold back and omit the truth, and that in doing so I limit my capacity to truthfully confront the people I am surround by and myself as a result. Satya has been an opportunity for me to examine my attitude towards the world I live in: to examine my mental projections and compare my perception and emotional experience of an event with what is happening outside of me. I have become more conscious of the subtle role of honesty in my daily interactions. I have uncovered more work to be done.
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