One of my very first yoga teachers shared these words with my fellow yoginis and me during our teacher training:
The greatest gift you can give the world is to share your truth.
At first glance, it is a simple message; however, embodying this message is more difficult than it may seem.
1. Learn your truth
The first challenge in this message, for me at least, is learning my truth. In western society, people are not encouraged to spend time sitting in self-reflection. Feeling blue? Buy something pretty and expensive. Drown your sorrows in a movie or a glass of wine. Lift your spirits with avoidance behaviors.
The problem with these messages is that they don’t actually work. They may appear to work at first. I, my self, and guilty to participating in consumer therapy just for the temporary boost it brings, but the key word here is “temporary.” After the high has worn off, I am left with a return to melancholia and the added remorse from spending money I don’t have on stuff I didn’t really need.
It has taken me several years just to recognize that there are truths within me and that it takes a lot of practice to begin to hear them. In my experience, figuring out my truth(s) has been a long, often painful, and certainly arduous process that is pretty much never ending.
Determining those dynamic truths is only the first step.
2. Accept and embrace your truth
Accepting and embracing your truths is another stage of the journey. It was one thing for me to recognize in 8th grade that I was tired of trying to mimic the dainty girls my age and to realize that I was not meant to be dainty. It took another decade (maybe two) to understand that I could still be womanly, beautiful, and attractive without embodying this image of what it means to be female. In fact, even though I know it is the first thing psychologists advise against for the pursuit of happiness, I still compare myself to all of the other fashionable and beautiful women of the world. I continue to struggle with my body image as well. I admire women with voluptuous curves, but I cannot quite give myself permission to celebrate those curves on my own hips.
In my experience, this is not a linear process. There is overlap of stages, regression, and what Paula Abdul has referred to as, two steps forward; two steps back.
3. Share your truth
Sharing my truths with others is one of the most difficult practices I have attempted. It is scary, raw, and I have often not been graceful or kind in the process, damaging relationships with friends and supervisors in the process. I think much of the damage comes from those on the receiving end feeling threatened by what I share. They might see this transformation I am going through and feel inspired to turn the mirror on their own existence, questioning their own truths. This is not a comfortable process, and I have been on the receiving end of the backlash my self-work has inspired. I will also admit that in the beginning stages of sharing my truths, I was not particularly successful at sharing them verbally. Why? to put it bluntly, I was terrified. Also, dominant people easily manipulate me, particularly those with control issues. So, rather than risking failure at an attempt to share my truth verbally, I have either ceased from responding to communications from friends or communicated my truth in writing. I can tell you from experience that no matter how clear and honest and kind I have tried to be via email and text message, there is a lot of room for miscommunication and for the other person to lash out. However, in those situations I simply was not strong enough to hold my ground and my authentic Self when confronted with another person who I knew from previous experiences would retaliate and/or question that Self. It was just too risky, so I took what some may call cowardly. I wrote my truth, sent it on its way, the tucked tail and ran toward freedom.
With regard to closure, I think in person honesty is the best route, but it is all a process. Not all relationships are meant to last. In my process, I have had to let go (often quite painfully) of the people in my life who were not able or willing, for whatever reason, to embrace me for me (the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between).
4. Be your truth
Actually living and embodying your truths are the final frontier of becoming your authentic Self. It’s one thing to be an ascetic in a cave on the path to enlightenment. In isolation, one is free from the challenges of the external world and can focus on their internal landscape. The householder (the term Tantrik scholars use to refer everyone else) has the additional challenge of being their authentic self in a world where snap judgments and the propensity to feel threatened by independent thinkers is the norm.
I can be my self at home, no problem, and my husband will (mostly) offer unending support. It’s when I walk out the front door that the inner critic and voice of self-doubt stretches their vocal chords.
If you are still reading, I thank you for your courage. I know that this is not an easy path and that wherever you are on your path you may be incredibly daunted and unsure. I can tell you that regardless of the challenges and pain, this is a path that is well worth following. It is also one that is well worn from many thousands of people who have set one foot in front of the other and paved the way for you and me.
While there are myriad situations life presents to deter and frighten us on the path, it is most important to keep moving. It is a practice, and practice takes practice.
Sometimes, the best practice is to simply give something a try, and see where it leads you.
In the auspicious words of Nike, Just do it! I believe in you.