Somewhere along the line, we learned to believe that life was only worth living if it feels good, and we have to avoid feeling bad at all costs. In yoga, we call this aversion (dvesa) and attraction (raga), and while it is good to know the things in life that we prefer as well as the things that we do not enjoy so much, these aversions and attractions can largely be used by the ego to keep us separate and stuck.
When we cling to only the things that feel good and comfortable and gratifying and shun the things that cause us discomfort or resistance or pain, we become trapped in our judgments and unable to grow outside and beyond our current circumstances.
Truth in tough times
Right now, we are experiencing uncharted territory as a world, as a collective, and as a people. While many people are at home under shelter-in-place ordinances, the entire world has been charged with social distancing and quarantine to varying degrees. The worldwide pandemic caused by COVID-19 is causing a global upheaval in public health and welfare, economic structures, and healthcare systems. Now is a time when we all are being called to face ourselves and our situations, on a personal, communal, and worldwide level.
Satya: Truth is based in reality
Facing ourselves is not something that’s generally encouraged in mainstream western culture. The convenient lifestyle we have created gives us what seems like unlimited choices and possibilities. If one of them challenges us or makes us uncomfortable, we can simply change and move on to the next item.
The yogic Yama of Satya, or Truthfulness, encourages us to face life as it is, rather than as we think it should be. Satya encourages us to be honest with our Self and others, and to present ourSelves and our situations in full light and in full view, rather than pivot to make things seem more appealing or palatable. This requires the ability to face life head-on, without conditions or qualifiers, to face what is, and to move forward with the strength that comes with being connected and rooted to the truth.
“Backwards Law” – The pursuit of making yourself feel better actually makes you feel worse
Would you consider that the more you try to make yourself feel better about things, the more unhappy you will become about it all? That’s a paraphrase of modern-day philosopher Alan Watt’s Backwards Law that describes how the focus on improving a situation only draws focus to the fact that the situation was lacking, wrong, or needing improvement to begin with. The Backwards Law lends, then, that by accepting one’s circumstance as it is, without the attempt to fix or change it, creates more satisfaction within the body because there is no recognition of lack or deficit.
Can we be willing then, right here and now, to sit with the uncomfortable truth of life as it is, rather than bypass to something more agreeable? Instead of seeking to numb and distract and avoid, can we choose instead to go inward? What would it feel like, for example, to try to turn panic into acceptance, rather than trying to turn panic all the way into positivity?
Notice and minimize distractions
Along with our likes and dislikes, our tendency to see things clearly (avidya), also inhibits us from living in truth. With our devices and distractions, our comforting foods, drinks, drugs, and purchases, it’s easy to not be engaged with life as it unfolds and passes by. Our distractions and numbing agents make it so that we can escape reality and live in an illusion of how we wish our lives to be. And now that we are in a time of crisis, we might not have cultivated the ability or the resilience to sit with the wide range of torrential thoughts, emotions, and sensations something like this can bring.
But we can develop new patterns and grooves of behavior (samskaras) that lead us home; back to ourselves, closer to our own hearts, bodies, spirits, and intuitions. These new samskaras can help us to be with the meaty, pulpy, raw beauty and carnage of whatever is in our hearts, minds, and bodies today, in this moment. The new pattern can start with the simple act of authentic acceptance. Nothing more, nothing less, just what is. Can you stop in the stillness, breathe, and be with what is?
Truthfulness isn’t safe, but it is good
Deborah Adele, in her gorgeous book entitled “The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice” states that truthfulness isn’t safe, but it is good. Where we are right now is anything but safe, but if we let it, I believe it can be good…eventually. But to get to the good, first, we have to stay where we are.
How do you tend to comfort yourself? Does this practice pull you closer or farther away from reality? Closer or farther away from your Self? What does silence and stillness feel like to you? What would life be like if you simply turned everything off and sat quietly for five minutes? Just five.
Where in your life can you stop fighting/resisting and start accepting?