The following post was written by Liz Beres, a NYC-based dancer, yoga teacher certified by The Perri Institute for Mind and Body, and dance teacher. Liz currently teaches yoga privately and at various gyms throughout the NYC metro area, and holds a regular Tuesday morning class at Steps on Broadway. She is continually intrigued by and appreciative of the power of mind/body practices, and is grateful for the chance to share her musings on MindBodyBrew’s digital platform.
Pinocchio. George Washington and the cherry tree. The boy who cried wolf. Many stories exist to tell of the perils of lying and the beautiful purity of truth. These tales tend to present Truth as a fairly simple duality—right over wrong, good conquering evil—but as we age, the complexities and conditional aspects of this realm make themselves known, and layers of ‘truth’ set by our social and cultural environments begin to coat us, building upon that deepest level of our core until our essence, our True nature, becomes much less distinct or even vanishes from our vision altogether.
Satya, the second of the five Yamas, refers to truthfulness—thinking, speaking, and acting with integrity. ‘Sat’ as a syllabic root labels that which exists, or that which is a part of that true nature I mentioned above. Oftentimes we identify with our thoughts, emotions, or sensations in a way that suggests their direct and continuous relation to our deepest being, when really, these entities only flit through our minds, hearts, and bodies. Because we so often give power to these passing elements, we can become reactive from a primitive, emotional place; we vibrate within this superficial coating of our personal realities, missing the clarity and truths that can radiate from our core if only we slow down or take the time to be still.
And yet even if we can attain greater quietude, siphoning through our truths can be confusing, and consequently disturbing. What is a part of my Truth? How many layers have been glued and sewn and pressed upon that ultimate core? And how many of these films have entangled in ways that only complicate the truth puzzle we might try to solve?
We certainly could get stuck pondering and mourning the layers unveiled by asana (physical posture), pranayama (breathwork), meditation, and other means of reflection that prove our capacity to shift our behaviors in attempts to become who we imagine others want us to be. We could revel in the freedom unleashed in no longer hiding who we are. But what if we are struggling to grab ahold of and define that central axis in the first place? How can we live from our truest self if we don’t really know what that is, or which step amid our knotted truths is the right one to take?
Lately, I’ve been living amidst a land of unknowns, countless disparate but honest aspects of myself coexisting. Sometimes my truths have bolstered one another; many times they have clashed, leaving the compass of my heart lost in its course and my headspace even more muddied.
Bohemian poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.” Rilke devises such a romantic image of these elusive questions and the choices hanging about them. Our own journeys may not be quite as beautiful as Rilke’s language depicts, but in sitting with unpleasantness, we can discover the subtleties and patterns of whatever is stirring, and through this greater comprehension, gain the skills to release our tense hold on the emotion or thought or sensation, thus disempowering its clutch and attaining a clearer, more grounded sense of that which is in front of us. The truths we experience and live one day may very well differ the next; sifting our truths through an emotional filter can refine our openness and presence to the moment at hand. What’s more, grasping our genuine reality diminishes the gap between our ego (who we think we are) and the atman (who we really are). The ego, readily pushed along by both those who wish the best for us and those with specific agendas, declares values and goals as being ours that in fact don’t always coincide with or exist as the priorities of the atman, our essential, universal self. And we too contribute to the deposits strewn upon us when we defend our ego and its components. So again, this principle of Truth set out for us at an early age burrows further into ambiguity.
Yoga serves as a powerful platform for working with all of these inconsistencies. Satya particularly proffers encouragement in approaching it all; as Jennifer Schmid of the Ananda Ashram of Monroe, NY writes, “Satya means being truthful and real about our shortcomings, our messes, and the places in our life where we have the opportunity to grow and transform. Yoga is about transformation…and about waking up into your mess and connecting to the divinity within that.” It might be challenging to believe that divinity really lies in our grit. But if we can soften and devote ourselves to such an idea, perhaps we can heighten our chances of moving on from our temporary states to plunge deeper into our inner, lasting world of Truth. To actually admit when our compass is spinning rather than settling, to address where we get stuck or confused, to ditch the self-judgment and instead infuse those moments with compassion . . . all this compels us toward freedom to be as we are and toward trust that our path will brighten in its clarity as time passes, if only we give it that time and can let go of the outcome.
I share these thoughts as much for myself as I do for us all. Deciphering who we are is inevitably a lifelong task that requires patience, curiosity, and faith; having methods that help us cope with the challenges of self-discovery is a blessing. May we all fearlessly lean in to that stripping away, so that our Truths can mingle and together, shower the world with integrity.