Shedding Skin for Satya
I didn’t grow up in a naked house. Emotions or bodies were never permitted to lay bare. In my home you did not speak of your faults, struggles or imperfections. You did not question. You did not expose yourself. You did not openly want or need. You put on your best attire and stepped out into the world collected and strong regardless of what was occurring inside. I have the potential to be destructively introspective. Growing up in this environment led to a consistent experience of conflict. Feelings of inadequacy could not be communicated and therefore couldn’t be nullified. How can one seek the truth if she cannot question, be imperfect, be naked and vulnerable? Doesn’t this façade simply hide a lie; are we not just pretending? The idea of impermissible vulnerability is one of my stories.
Stories are a part of one’s history from the personal perspective.
Satya, translated from Sanskrit means truth. It is the practice of separating thoughts, beliefs and emotions from truth. We all have stories and identities that form from them. It is easy to attach the sense of self to these stories but when we choose to look deeper, to lean in, we can see that these are not our truths. Truth is a fact. Truth is not based on opinion or perception. We are not our stories. We are not our emotions. Those are just passing impulses carried through our brains via neurotransmitters. We can learn to detach from them and see the world and our inner being as it really is.
Buddhist teachers have instructed that the mantra “Real But Not True” be a means to open the line between the conscious processing centers (frontal lobe) of the brain to the more emotionally driven areas (amygdala). Tsoknyi Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, says this connection is open via kindness, empathy and reassurance. The example he uses is being afraid of heights. The fear is real but peering off a cliff’s edge does not equate to dying. You are afraid –real- you are dying -not true. The feelings are real but they do not carry fact behind them. We can utilize this investigation tool in all realms of suffering: physical, emotional and spiritual. Tara Brach, a psychologist and Buddhist meditation teacher suggests, “We can free ourselves from harmful beliefs by investigating them with a dedicated, mindful and courageous presence.”
The ability to be openly vulnerable, to walk a path of Satya, can be a slow, gradual process. It takes practice especially when it goes against a story that feels familiar. I was nurtured to be guarded, to not allow the world to see the depth of my being, my unprotected self. Sitting naked together at a hot spring a friend and I reflected on my inner conflict of story and truth. My wise friend responded simply, “be kind to yourself, you are shedding skin.” Shedding skin or releasing yourself from patterned tendencies that don’t serve the true you, allows the stories to pass through, just like the impulses they are. You don’t have to allow them to root or be expressed.
Putting it to Practice
Today, if you find yourself armoring or resisting an emotion, a physical sensation or an opinion offered from someone else, try to soften, pause. Don’t allow the patterned response to take hold. Instead lean in just a little. Ask yourself is this true? Is this kind? Is this helpful? See what unfolds. Try not to judge it, simply observe.