This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight...”
- Rumi, the Guest House
Satya, the 2nd Yama, encourages us to not only think, speak, and act with integrity, but to also see things for as they truly are, not as we wish them to be. It reminds us to honor that which exists – that which is – right now in the present moment. Through the practice of Satya, we acknowledge the co-dependent relationship between opposing forces of light and dark and appreciate that we exist most completely, most authentically, most truthfully, when we embody both.
I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for years. My tactic for healing these parts of myself was simply to stay busy and ignore it. I kept going, going, going. While that may have helped in the immediate moment, it only perpetuated these shadow elements. Without being addressed, let alone acknowledged, they were left to simmer until they eventually combusted in a way that was likely much worse than what I would have experienced had I dealt with them initially.
I realized then that while I could continue running, I’d be doing just that – constantly running. The only way to rid myself of these demons was to face them. Rather than being ashamed by their presence and burying them, I learned to recognize and walk with these darker elements, treating them as guests of my human experience. Rather than fighting their presence, I welcomed them and the other visitors – deep empathy, heightened sensitivity, internal awareness – they brought, understanding the pivotal role that each played in allowing me to experience my humanity most completely. And through that expression of both light and dark, came not just authenticity, but also freedom.
You may have experienced something similar in your life, perhaps with grief or a spiritual awakening. Just as we cannot heal from loss without first acknowledging that emptiness, we cannot awaken our higher consciousness without understanding that we have been asleep. In fact, those of you who have experienced an awakening, or are in the process of doing so, may be able to attest to the difficulty of this journey. Despite the zen and peaceful images that are sometimes perpetuated in mainstream culture, this process is often turbulent and chaotic.
True, consider how a caterpillar or snake must feel as it sits in darkness, feeling constrained and uncomfortable right before it sheds its skin – right before it breaks free and comes into a more expanded version of themselves. Those challenging times, those shadowy places, then, are necessary.
We may feel we are surrounded by darkness, but aren’t seeds first buried in the soil before they can emerge into the light?
Welcome that uncomfortableness – it lets us know that we can no longer tolerate the inertia of the status quo – that instead we are ready to transform and change – that we know we can be more. That we are ready to experience a new dimension of our truth.
By shining a light on truth, Satya helps us avoid spiritual bypassing, the tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to avoid dealing with the truth by glazing over unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and difficult conversations. It is a dangerous form of denial and is often touted as a spiritual practice and form of self-care. Rather than turning inwards to check in with ourselves, however, we check out. We ignore hearing the wisdom of our inner voices. We focus on aversion and repression. We contract rather than expand. We limit ourselves when we could be so much more.