Mental Satya

This is a four part-article:

  1. Satya
  2. Physical Satya
  3. Emotional Satya
  4. Mental Satya

Wrong perception takes many forms (read also: mental ahimsa). Satya can be practiced in the mind by examining thought forms that provide the basis for our perceived identity and experience. These patterns of thought are our ideas about ourselves: I’m like this, I’m don’t like that, I’ve always done that, etc. Question their validity. Dissolve the trappings of false belief by being mindful. Even your own thoughts come from somewhere. They are not an inextricable part of you. They have a source, a catalyst. You are not required to believe them.

Your thoughts are but clouds passing across the sky of awareness. Some are dark, some are light, some bring rain, while sometimes the sky is clear and sunny. The form of some is quite recognizable, even beautiful. Others are hazy, more difficult to make sense of. If you are taken in by a cycle of negative thinking, remember that you are just watching a thunderstorm. Small children are afraid of the thunder and lightning, the loud noises and the flashes. The torrential rain. As we develop, we understand what thunder and lightning are. They aren’t so scary. We might even come to enjoy sitting by the window with a cup of hot tea and watching the dramatic story of the storm unfold. When it comes to your thinking, take a step back. Recognize yourself at the window. You need not fear. The winds shall soon blow it past and the sky will clear. You understanding that the storm is just a natural phenomenon. A predictable process gave rise to the storm, and it will soon dissolve, clouds to rain to rivers. Do not confuse the sky with the weather. The sky provides an environment for the weather to manifest. Your consciousness provides an environment for thought to manifest. Yet every thought shall pass, while only the sky remains.

Observe, but do not invite storms. Storms are not wrong or bad, yet they obscure the light of the sun – the truth. Our thought patterns can become warped when we look at others, obscuring our perception of reality. We might feel threatened by their success or superior to their failure. ‘Oh, I could never do that! She’s so much better at everything than I am;’ or ‘what a jerk! He deserved what he got.’

These perceptions occlude the truth: that we are all equal, regardless of social status, race, accomplishment, or personality. The judgements we make about others say more about us than about the person being judged. Release these judgements, as they will only shackle you to your own suffering and delusion.

Interlocking systems of such “barriers of difference” [prejudice, discrimination] … produce the articulated world … the cultural weave of this society, a fiction that will begin to seem real as soon as everyone forgets that human beings made it.
-Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World, P.232

As Hyde reveals, the differences and separations that exist between humans are man-made. There is no inherent inequality or division. Recognize this artificial ‘cosmos’ in your own thinking; what do you take for granted? Viewing the world in this way, through this lens, is commonly accepted and infrequently questioned. It is the way of society; without binding collective perceptions and values, culture would dissolve. The Yogi need not abandon society, yet he cultivates awareness. He embodies mindfulness, with full consciousness behind every decision and action.

Time to ignore sensible advice,
to untie the knots our culture ties us with.

As we make judgements against others, so too do we pass judgements against ourselves. In psychology, the term ‘self-talk’ is employed to describe how we interact with ourselves in the mental realm. Self talk can be positive or negative, honest or dishonest.

Some examples:

‘I sure did a great job on that project at work today!’

‘That person is so rude. I can’t believe he said that to me!’

‘Man. Why do I even think I have a chance? What’s wrong with me?’

‘This person makes me so happy! I always have such a great time when we’re together.’

To become established in satya, use discrimination. Not every thought is to be believed. Some are accurate descriptions of events, many are not. Many of our self-appraisals are incorrect, tending towards either self-deprecation or egotism. By following our self-talk to its roots, we can discover a deeper reflection of our worldview, our needs, and our fears, which can then be addressed directly. Struggling to repress our thoughts will do little good, and they will continue bubbling to the surface of our consciousness, keeping us awake at night, plaguing our days with self-doubt and endless veils of false perception. Instead, dive deep and find the source: act from there.

Exercise: Do you engage in dishonest ‘self-talk’? Write down an example, then work backwards from this thought, asking yourself, ‘what provokes this thought?’ or ‘what perceived need is being met with this thought?’ Map out the connections as you discover them. Go deep. You will arrive at the source.

Consider an example:

“I’m furious with my boss! I can’t believe she assigned me to this project when she already knows how much work I do for the company. She hates me. There’s no other explanation.”

This thought is provoked by an event at work. Yet this is the catalyst, not the cause. To be upset, an event must snag and pull at a loose thread in the mind. If the mind is still, smooth, unruffled, events will not engender negative reactions. What, then, is the cause? Perhaps I’m feeling stretched too thin to adequately accomplish all my responsibilities. Perhaps I’m frustrated with my home life, having been in an argument with my partner earlier in the day. I project these emotions onto the catalyst, confusing and mixing the action of my boss with the emotion of another event.

Having identified the cause, we now dig deeper. What seed allowed this cause to germinate? Perceived needs are like seeds, allowing the cause to sprout. In the first example of feeling stretched too thin, a deeper layer is the need for success or acceptance, and, jointly, fear of failure. In the second example, I feel a need to be the recipient of love, and am afraid of losing my partner. We keep fighting and I don’t know how to make her happy.

In either case, we have now arrived at a place where we can act effectively. If we try to ‘process’ the feeling of frustration with our boss, or brush it aside, or revel in it, or accept it and move on, we will have passed over this opportunity for deepening self-understanding and making a positive difference in our lives. That feeling is caused not by your boss’ action, but is rather a projection of a deeper emotion.

Once you have this awareness, you can make the choice to correct your perception through understanding. Release the old pattern. You are not that person anymore. You are not that thought or that judgement. Letting go will bring not panic, but instead a relieving lightness. Though you may not succeed at first, though you may become distracted, or frustrated, or afraid, persist nonetheless. This is an important work you have undertaken; accept nothing less than success, than understanding.

This is the end of a four part-article. I hope you enjoyed it! Use the menu above to navigate, or continue reading about Yamas.

  1. Satya
  2. Physical Satya
  3. Emotional Satya
  4. Mental Satya