I want to reflect a little bit on how I practice (or fail to practice!) satya and ahimsa in myself.
Sometimes in the past I’ve found it difficult to be honest with myself. Maybe I know deep down that things aren’t going the way I want them to, but I tell myself that everything’s fine and press on. If I keep working at it, the results I want will happen eventually, right? But maybe it would be better to take an honest look at the situation and make another choice. By telling myself that everything’s fine, I deprive myself of the opportunity to change things, and potentially put myself deeper in a bad situation.
Or maybe I’ve made a mistake, broken something or forgotten something or said something I shouldn’t have. Then I tell myself what a bad mistake it was, I always do these things and that’s why I’ll never be able to succeed. Then I start on a downward spiral: clearly this mistake means that I’m a bad person. Clearly I’m overweight, I’m lazy, I’ll never get things right. Ten minutes later I’m ready to cry and can’t imagine why anyone would want to spend time with me. (This whole thing really perplexes my husband: he asks what I want for dinner and I burst into tears, because he’s always so nice and asks what I want, and a terrible person like me doesn’t deserve such a wonderful husband!)
Now, maybe some of the things I’ve told myself are true, but certainly not all of them, and even though I did make a mistake, I don’t deserve to be punished like that by anyone, especially myself. I find it hardest to be forgiving to myself – I can always forgive a friend, and when I’m the one who’s messed up, my friends and family never fail to forgive me and reassure me. Yet I’ll worry over this mistake, which my friends already forgave me for, and be unable to let it go. Why can’t I treat myself like my own friend?
When I get into patterns like this, I’m not acting with either satya or ahimsa, and I’m hoping that practicing the yamas will help me deal with this bad habit. While it may be true that I did something wrong, satya doesn’t demand that I reprimand myself repeatedly. Satya demands only that I recognize and acknowledge the error. If I’m practicing satya, then I should keep the error in perspective: I only forgot to throw in the laundry, for goodness sake, it’s not the end of the world. Blowing things up out of proportion and taking them out of context is dishonest. Then, once I practice satya and acknowledge that I was wrong, ahimsa tells me to let it go. Hanging onto it does violence to my spirit, and I hurt myself over and over. Making one mistake does not make me a bad person, or an undesirable or unlovable person. Dwelling on these things, spiraling down until I feel like I am unlovable: that’s harmful to me.
So what can I do to change this habit? First, I need to recognize what’s happening while it’s happening. I need to say to myself, hey, I made a mistake. I admit I shouldn’t have played video games all night, I should have called my mother, I should have cleaned the bathroom, I forgot to stop at the store. I was wrong. People make mistakes sometimes, but that’s okay. Sometimes it helps me to make a new plan to make up for the mistake: it’s late at night now so I can’t fix it today, but I’ll stop at the store during my lunch break tomorrow. And then – it’s over! I need to stop thinking about it at this point. Go for a walk, do some yoga, wash some dishes, bake some cookies, complete another task that needs to get done that I can accomplish today. Or even just find a funny show to watch on TV. Take my mind away from the pattern, and move on to something else. Although it may be hard to act with love toward myself in that moment, I can step away from that moment and try to find a new moment when caring for myself is more possible.