Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? When considering the second of the five Yamas, Satya or Truth, ask yourself these three questions before speaking. You may notice more pausing before uttering a word.
How do we define truth in an age of post-truth? When there's no agreement on facts because they're all politicized. What is objective, pure truth? Can it even be known? Or is truth only subjective and therefore impossible to separate from individual perception? What does "speaking one's truth" actually mean? And if speaking one's truth harms another, are we violating Ahimsa, the first of the Yamas (do no harm)?
I suspect, based on the three questions above, the one that might trip us up the most is the last one: Is it kind? A quick glance on social media and one quickly gets the impression that kindness is a lost art. These platforms are now predominantly used for public shaming and ruining people's lives. If you've seen Game of Thrones and remember Cercei Lannister's walk of shame through the streets of King's Landing (Shame! Shame! Shame!), imagine a virtual version of that.
Today, speaking one's truth seems equated with denigrating another's instead of trying to find some common ground. Today's truth feels hard, inflexible, dogmatic. There is no room for debate, or apparently, kindness. It's a slippery slope when one group feels they are in possession of the only truth and must force it upon others - a dynamic which has shaped much of history, and continues today, even in the midst of the most noble causes. The idea that multiple truths can co-exist at the same time seems largely ignored.
One might get the impression that we relish being "right" and proving others "wrong", that we brazenly throw sharp stones from our glass houses, as if we've never committed a transgression. We live in an age of harsh judgment, of thought and language policing, of eroding common sense, all in the name of exposing the truth. Social media has encouraged us to believe that every opinion we have on every conceivable subject should be shared with the world, as if opinions are truth, and that each one we have matters and will impact humanity in a meaningful way. (Reality check: our opinions don't matter that much).
The concept of Satya can also mean being truthful with oneself. We can be masters of self-delusion, convincing ourselves of practically anything, however absurd it may be instead of acknowledging that our behaviour might be driven by trying to fill a void within, by a deep-seated and unexamined need for attention or validation, or by the fear of being alone. How many times have we gossiped with others just to feel like part of a group? So how can we begin to be truthful with ourselves which may naturally lead to being truthful with others in a constructive and non-harmful way? Here are a few tips:
Listen more than you speak.
Pause and be still (even if it's for one minute) a few times a day and notice how you feel. Are you tired? Energetic? Content? Angry? Envious? Joyful?
Before speaking, ask yourself: What is my intention? Answer honestly.
When eating a meal, stop when you feel full.
Understand that opinions are not truth.
Objective truth can be known by answering one simple question: does this bring us together more than it divides us?
Truth is Love. Yeah, it sounds like some corny horseshit but that's the truth.