Something rare happened in a Back Care class I taught this morning. An exchange between a practitioner and I left them feeling uneasy enough to approach me after class and touch base about our dialogue.
I’m so grateful for this genuine honest exchange.
Without violating privacy or speaking to someone else’s experience, I will say that the awkwardness they felt touched me deeply. As a teacher I feel protective over the people I instruct, and as a human being I try to ensure my thoughts, words and actions unfold in love and conscious awareness. Sometimes it works – other times, not so much.
Honesty is not a virtue meant only for a particular section of mankind, as loyalty for a subordinate, chastity for a married woman, and filial piety and obedience for children and students. Honesty is a sacred duty and moral obligation in the interests of social solidarity. An honest man is dear to the Lord. The Lord showers His Grace upon such a one. Honesty never goes unrewarded in the long run. All honest man comes to be honored by all.
From “Daily Sayings” by Swami Sivananda
(Although I’d like to change the “man” to read “person,” Swami-ji did grow up at the turn of the 20th century, to be fair! All things in context . . .)
Honesty is absolutely vital on the path to perceiving truth (small or large “T”). To think of honesty as a vital aspect of “social solidarity,” as Swami-ji notes above, really grounds the notion of honesty in its every day importance. (Humble thanks again, Swami-ji!)
It also made me wonder: is honesty necessarily the same thing as truth?
The Sutras define a yogi as one who thinks, speaks and acts in truth – satya, the unchangeable truth. To me, honesty is something slightly more subjective – that which is free from lies, a straightforward expression of a perspective on a personal truth in a particular moment.
What touched me about this situation today was that the practitioner, who I am also beginning to know personally, felt comfortable enough to bring up their experience and talk it out. I was honored and relieved the discordance didn’t send them away, but rather brought us together. Though the conversation was not easy, we were mindful in the way we expressed. In the end, we both felt heard, understood, and more aware of each other’s personal truths. And that brought us both closer to satya.
The exchange reminded me that although an uncomfortable experience may speak to a particular truth in one moment, it’s so important to objectively observe how that experience evolves, physically and psychologically into the next moment. Speaking our truth, no matter how difficult it may be, is always progressive when it’s spoken with compassion for self and those around us.
Most luminaries who think on this subject have come across the question: is it possible to be “too honest?” Not that this was the case in my personal example here, but in general, when is it appropriate to keep some truth to oneself? Yoga teachers in my past have similar views that the spoken word should be kind, honest and necessary. When would be a time where spoken honesty is *not* appropriate?