The latest Yoga Scandal? Or you prefer to read about Truth? ~ Ben Ralston

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30 or so years ago I lied to my Father and he caught me out. I remember being afraid, and tensing up in anticipation of a whack or a stern rebuke. But there was just a very long pause, a pause that felt like falling, falling through space – no roots, nothing to ground me. Then he warmly and simply said:

“There’s nothing I despise more than a lie”.

He looked at me kindly and left it at that.

He wasn’t always such a magnificent teacher, but that day, he nailed it.

I’ve spent my whole life since searching for Truth.

At school I sat in countless classrooms watching the parade of old men whose life-blood slipped away while they bullshitted themselves (and each other, and my parents) that they were teaching anything worthwhile. There was no truth to be found there.

On the television endless advertisements, people with too-white teeth and too-wide smiles, trying to persuade me that they were honest and good and that I needed what they were selling. No truth there.

On the streets and in the shops and buses and trains I saw everyone trying to convince themselves that they were alright, happy, safe. But I saw through their deception. No truth.

In Churches and in Synagogues I listened to readings from dusty old books and I felt the disconnect between what was being read, and the person reading it. There was no truth there, no true Faith, only blind, wishful-thinking, and the wise child that I was wasn’t fooled.

(When I finally realized that my parents weren’t superheroes) I saw my Father struggling to balance his dignity with the daily grind of trying to become – what? A millionaire? A billionaire? And I failed to see the truth in that.

I saw my Mother’s sense of unfulfilled, unrealized potential, and the emptiness inside that she occasionally tried to fill with wine, chewing gum, or television, and I knew that she hadn’t found the truth that I was looking for.

So I spent many years knowing only what I didn’t want. I didn’t want my life to be a lie. I knew that with all my heart. I yearned for a not-lie. But I had no idea what that was. I had no idea what the truth looked like, or how it felt, or even if I would recognize it if it were right in front of me, with a big flashing neon sign:

Herein lies TRUTH.

Actually, I would have turned away. When you are so conditioned by delusion and hypocrisy… when all you have ever known is deception… when the fabric of your society is woven with pretense… then the truth is something to be feared!

I have another, earlier memory. Mr Morton may have been a rare example in my life of a good school teacher. He seemed very old to me then, with grey whiskers and a stooped gait, and when he sat at the front of the class he would interlock his fingers, rotating one thumb around the other in what seemed like a frantic attempt to slow down time… I had the sense that there was a great energy about to bubble up in him, about to boil over… and if he didn’t keep on twiddling his thumbs like that he wouldn’t be able to stop it.

One of my peers must have lied to him one day, because he exploded, whiskers shaking, mouth foaming, eyes bulging. When he’d finished there were some nervous  sniggers, but we all – each and every one of us in that room that day knew that we’d seen and heard Truth directly:

“When you start to tell lies you enter a very dangerous arena, a grey world where black and white blur into one, and right and wrong lose their meaning. And one day you will find yourself an altogether grey person, because you will have started to believe your own lies.”

We live in a grey world. Our society is very, very grey – phone hacking, money-makes-money banking, countries invaded under the guise of WMD that were never there. Soap operas and adverts and MTV and internet-filters and rigged elections and Arms Fairs and Oil dependency and Global Warming and… on and on. One scandal, one controversy after another.

This is what happens when spiritual practice is used as a vehicle for fame and fortune, when personal gain trumps respect for lineage, when the student proclaims himself teacher of teachers. (The link is to a post I wrote the other day about the corruption of Eastern spirituality by Western materialism, specifically – yoga teachers training more yoga teachers).

Does our society support a quest for freedom and truth, or does it encourage us to rejoice in the illusion of gossip and malicious rumor like pigs rolling in mud?

There is only one solution to the problem, and that is to stop relying on that society. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be part of it. You can still play the game – but by your own rules.

Be aware that Truth is the gateway to freedom. And don’t compromise in your search for, and expression of, that truth.

Not long ago a student asked me the secret to happiness. I answered:

“Never compromise”.

She was somewhat surprised, because let’s face it, most of us grew up being taught the opposite – that compromise is an integral part of happiness!

How many times were you told:

“’You can’t have it all’… ‘choose one or the other’… ‘dreams don’t come true’… ‘better the devil you know’…”

or variations of the above?

But I’m here to tell you differently: by all means, compromise with your partner over which movie you watch, or what you have for dinner; compromise with a colleague over how you go about completing a task. Compromise on the little things. Compromise your desires.

But when it comes to something big – love, work, your aspirations and dreams: don’t compromise – not one iota. Don’t take a single step off the path of meaningful, intentional life. Know what you want, and go for it, with 110% of your energy. And when something gets in the way, either jump over, or go around, or wait patiently until it moves away again, because it will move if your intention is strong.

Don’t lose sight of what is important to you – your values – and don’t compromise on them. If you do, the day will come when you look back on your life and see only a lies. I can’t imagine anything worse.

Mr Morton was right.

One lie leads to another. What starts out as a simple excuse for why you stay with the partner who doesn’t totally rock your world leads to a whole world-wide-web of self-deceit. That’s just the beginning, because next you have to convince the rest of the world about it too!

Before you know it, life is grey and foggy.

It takes a great deal of courage to be really honest with yourself. The very reason we deceive ourselves is because we’re afraid. So to be honest means to be doubly courageous – you have to have the cojones to confront your fears, and to then carry on in spite of them. You have to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.

That might mean leaving a partner, or a job, or a home, or a college. It might mean coming out about your sexuality, or travelling the world, or learning a language, or whatever. These are big, scary things. But they are gateways – you can either go through that gateway to freedom, or you can stay hiding behind the door.

Hide behind that door and remain in a dark, shadowy, grey world where the search for love, peace, and freedom is utterly pointless. Death will come for you full of regrets.

But step through that door and be dazzled by full-spectrum multi-chromatic rainbow-colored Glory.

The choice is ours to make, and we are all making that choice, every moment of every day.

What do you choose?


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anonymous Nov 2, 2012 6:36am

[…] yourself an altogether grey person, because you will have started to believe your own lies.” The latest Yoga Scandal? Or you prefer to read about Truth? ~ Ben […]

anonymous Oct 20, 2012 2:28am

somehow your essays come at the moment i need to tip, step, stop or turn. always always the truth i need to hear. thank you

    anonymous Oct 22, 2012 11:49am

    Glad to hear it Jennifer. Thanks for letting me know 🙂

anonymous Oct 20, 2012 1:39am

Wonderful article…with only one thing I might add. No matter how you live your life, at the edge or behind the door…you are not then obliged to regret. No matter how free you've been, you are not safe-guarded from regret. The consciousness of regret has absolutely nothing to do with what you've done in your life, but whether or not you can accept what you've done. Your mind can use moments of your life to create justifications for the sense of regret, but that is simply a mechanism of the mind. Regret is optional. In fact, regret can only occur when one is thinking of the past. For the mind that can remain deeply entrenched in the present moment (regardless of action), regret does not exist.

It can be easy to mistake life for having a point that is the same for all. Yet, for some people, choosing the job that doesn't satisfy is the learning experiment, the contrast through which they learn what creates true satisfaction. The simple error that many people make is the presumption that because they wish to live at the edge, that that is the place that all people want to (or should want to) live at.

When one immerses themselves in truth, black and white are separate, yet one. Right and wrong are clear, yet non-existent. Reality is both dual and non-dual. To remain in the fog (as you put it) is not different than the alternative. Neither itself is sufficient for the deep experience of truth, or the experience of peace. I appreciated this article very much. Thank you.

    anonymous Oct 22, 2012 11:49am

    thanks for commenting Michael.

anonymous Oct 20, 2012 1:10am

Fabulous piece!

anonymous Mar 21, 2012 3:24am

[…] understand everything makes it difficult to rest in the intuitive knowing of ‘God’ or ‘Truth’ or ‘The Universe’ or ‘Consciousness’ —whatever you want to call it. […]

anonymous Feb 11, 2012 1:14pm

best piece you've ever written.

anonymous Feb 8, 2012 10:06pm


anonymous Feb 8, 2012 6:25am

Exactly what I needed to read this morning, thank you!

anonymous Feb 5, 2012 2:05pm

great article, had to come back, and again, and again, thanks! inspirational, going to share 🙂

    anonymous Feb 5, 2012 9:52pm

    Thank you for sharing, and I'm touched that you came back!

anonymous Feb 5, 2012 9:20am

Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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anonymous Feb 5, 2012 9:11am

Well done, Ben. I particularly enjoyed the line "when the fabric of your society is woven with pretense."
Sometimes, we are so deep in the fog it becomes our version of a clear day. Cheers.

    anonymous Feb 5, 2012 12:02pm

    Thanks Karl.
    I've been enjoying some of your writing lately but haven' gotten round to commenting. Looking forward to connecting a bit further… 🙂

anonymous Feb 4, 2012 9:42pm

Wow, Ben – this article is as brutally honest as I can only hope to be in my strongest moments and then deep within myself.

Well done! Giving so much of yourself to enlighten others is deeply admirable.

May you always stay on the true path.

    anonymous Feb 5, 2012 5:39am

    Thank you Suresh, I also pray that I stay on the true path. It's an easy path to lose… we have to be mindful in every moment or our pure intentions, stay humble.
    Love to you my friend.

anonymous Feb 4, 2012 8:36pm

Ben I always enjoy reading your work so much. It seems to always come at times when your words hold true value and insight in regards to whatever is happening in my own life. I love that you said we should not compromise one iota when it comes to the big things, the stuff that makes the foundation of our paths. Thanks so much for this. Sending lots of love and light your way brother 🙂


    anonymous Feb 5, 2012 5:37am

    Thank you sista, good to know you.

anonymous Feb 4, 2012 6:33pm


Kate Bartolotta Feb 4, 2012 6:14pm

Love you Ben & LOVE this. Truth always, as compassionately as possible, but truth none the less.

    anonymous Feb 5, 2012 5:37am

    Thank you Kate. And thank you for the heart songs piece! I also needed some new tunes… 🙂

anonymous Feb 4, 2012 10:57am

Terrific, Ben! The truth has NEVER EVER been anywhere but inside the heart. "Compromise" has never been in its dictionary. Your whiskery old teacher was a pretty cool dude. Thanks for turning the lights on.

anonymous Feb 4, 2012 9:04am

Righteouness is the demon… ours, his, yours. sometimes when we see lies what we really are seeing is a distortion of the truth. Who are we to know what's really true anyway?

    anonymous Feb 4, 2012 9:19am

    If you don't know your truth my friend, who will?

anonymous Feb 4, 2012 6:34am

A great post, Ben! Very inspiring and helpful.
It needs to be shared!
Thank you!

anonymous Feb 4, 2012 6:01am

Truth, please! Thank you! 🙂

anonymous Feb 4, 2012 3:58am

Resonates deeply within… saying no to fear and living your truth. Thank you for writing this, Ben.

anonymous Feb 4, 2012 3:34am

Hi Ben, Excellent article!
Each of us has available to us, at every moment, accurate knowledge of what is the right thing to do at that moment, if we will examine our own logical responsible thinking ( which is always functioning at some level). We do know what is the right thing to do always. We can always check on this knowledge and act accordingly.

    anonymous Feb 4, 2012 4:42am

    Hi Joe,
    I agree, but I'd say that it usually has less to do with logic, and more to do with intuition (paired with the conscious decision to be responsible and do the right thing). Often logic leads us around in circles in my opinion… and is too easily influenced by ego. But could be we're saying exactly the same thing – words are such tricky f*ckers aren't they?!

anonymous Feb 4, 2012 2:43am

BRIIIILLLLIANT!!!! Love it Ben. Great work. Hugs, Jeannie

    anonymous Feb 4, 2012 5:16am

    Thanks Jeannie. I started writing this a while back, but when I came online this morning to see all the JF hooha, and especially in light of my last article, on yoga, I felt like I had to get it out today. So there it is.
    Big hug for you too 🙂
    Love, Ben

anonymous Feb 6, 2012 9:20am

Thank you for taking the time to write a beautiful comment Laura 🙂

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Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting.
He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.