I was listening to the news last week on a discussion about the lack of honesty and truthfulness in news reporting and with politicians. My first reaction was that this was nothing new. We have always had to navigate whether or not what we learned from the media or heard from a politician was true or not. But the difference now is that the dishonesty is getting dangerous. I’m not going to talk about who’s telling the truth or not----because I’m sure no one is completely innocent. What I’m more interested in discussing is how can stop this trajectory? We don’t need to continue on this path. We have the intellect, heart and power to create a better way of life for us that is full of honesty and truthfulness.
So how DO we make a change? On a national level, I believe the news media should report the facts without infusing their opinions and should hold leaders of all parties accountable. And then what can we, as individuals, do to promote honesty? The only way I know to contribute to a better world is to be the change I want to see. We have the power to do that! When we lead by example our goodness will naturally create a ripple effect which will grow beyond our communities.
If you’ve read my blogs before, you know that I typically turn to the teachings within the 8 Limbs of Yoga to guide me through challenging situations like this. And, not surprisingly, satya, which is the Sanskrit word for truthfulness, is one of the 5 principles within the yamas, which is the 1st limb and contains the ethical practices that guide us to treat ourselves, others and the planet with compassion and respect. Here’s a quick lesson in Honesty 101 from a yogic perspective:
Satya encourages us to be honest and speak the truth but to do so with compassion. This practice builds upon the first yama, ahimsā, which translates to not harming. Applying ahimsā to the way we speak means that we maintain the intention to be honest, but in a way that causes the least amount of harm. Our words are such powerful tools, and the yoga philosophy asks that we use them in a manner that lifts people up. Our thoughts and words help shape our environment. So, let’s commit to speak in ways that will bring us together instead of dividing us.
I realize that this is easier said than done! It takes practice to think before we speak, to be constructive, kind and thoughtful with our words. I fail at it every day! But I keep trying. A daily meditation practice helps, because it softens my reactivity---I’m less irritable and, therefore, am able to respond a little kinder. Another tool that I have found extremely helpful, is to ask yourself 3 questions before you speak:
1. Is what you want to say truthful? If not, then don’t say it.
2. If it is truthful, then is it beneficial to the person? If not, then don’t say it. If what you say is harmful to the person or to others, then it’s better to say nothing. Gossip is a perfect example of what is not beneficial to share with others.
3. If it is truthful and beneficial, then will the person hear what you have to say? Is the person in the right frame of mind to listen to what you have to say? If the person is angry or rushing out the door, they might not hear you or may take what you say the wrong way. Timing is everything. If not, then wait for an appropriate time.
If it is truthful, beneficial and the timing is right, then say it!
This type of honesty cultivates intimacy which truly connects us instead of dividing us. This honest behavior is what will help us create a more honesty and kinder world. (Now if we could only figure out how to convince the media and politicians to practice this too!)
Try using this process for a week and see how it effects the quality of your relationships. Take it one step further and share this email with those in your life and challenge them to try this process too! Together we can transform our world!