December 14, 2013

Maya: Truth, Illusion & a Tattoo. ~ Laura Grace

As I walked into a café in Goa the other morning one of the waiters looked at me and called “Maya.”

“Oh, I’m Laura” I replied.

“Maya” He said again clearly.

“No La-u-ra” I said patronisingly as if he couldn’t understand my English accent. He smiled and nodded at my wrist “It says maya” I looked down at my Tattoo.

“Really?” I asked slightly puzzled. It was supposed to say ‘satya.’

I returned to my table and asked my friend, the café owner, and she confirmed what the boy had said—“definitely maya” she said, “I’ll draw it for you.” She rushed off to get a pen. She drew the Sanskrit for maya and then the Sanskrit for satya.

Definitely maya.

Now the irony off this story has two sides. First, and most strangely, the girl I was living and teaching yoga with is an American girl named Maya. So when the waiter had first said her name, I thought he had just confused me with my ‘other half’. Out of all the things my Tattoo could have accidentally meant—it was her name.

Secondly, satya means truthfulness and maya means illusion.

And so here is my lesson:

Just before I came to India my good bendy buddy said to me “You are pushing too hard.”

I was pushing for ‘answers’, pushing for the ‘truth’. The truth is, I am so fixated on the truth that I had the Sanskrit symbol tattooed across my wrist.

I was brought up to be extremely honest. My dad could not bear it if we lied to him and would always be far angrier if we lied than if we told the truth (whatever that may have been). It meant I was allowed the freedom to be honest. I would tell my parents I was going to a rave at the age of 15. I would tell my mum when I needed emergency contraception and needed her help. I would call my parents to come pick me up when I had drunk too much and needed to get home. Their philosophy was that I would do all of these things anyway and they would much rather know what I was doing than have me lie about it.

They would rather be there for me when I needed help, rather then be the last people that I turned to. My parents were very liberal and down to earth. I was aware, even from a young age; that I was lucky. I was aware most people didn’t have this kind of relationship with their parents and most of my friends lied in fear of ‘getting caught’ or getting into trouble.

I learnt to say it like it is.

I learnt how to be honest with the people that mattered most.

I learnt how to ‘talk’ about what was really going on.

I learnt how to not hide things.

I learnt how to say it exactly how it is. Always.

As I grew up I was disappointed to find out this is a skill that most people don’t possess. A skill that a lot of people haven’t developed. A lot of people can’t talk about their feelings, about what is real for them. What they feel and where they feel it. Most people can’t talk about their vulnerabilities. Can’t talk about what they are sacred of. What terrifies them. Most people still lie about what they actually get up to. Act however they want but deny it, lie about it, cover it up, not admit it, not own it, not talk about it.

Whatever it is.

As I am always as honest as I can be and don’t really see any other way of being, I would look to people and expect the same in return. I spent my whole life being let down by other people’s inability to tell the truth.

I would endlessly trust people and have unlimited faith in their honesty, only to find out they had lied about being faithful, lied about cheating, lied about what they had really been up to. Lied about how they felt. Not confessed to what they had really done. Not owned their truth.

Even my best friend, who I love endlessly, used to tell little white lies to cover up things that she didn’t want to admit to, scared that the ‘truth’ would hurt. Most of the time the little white lie was unnecessary, but it was a habit that became hard to break.

I can’t bear it.

I can’t bear being lied to.

Especially point blank to my face. If someone proves that they are capable of point blank lying then I find it almost impossible to trust that person again. I am forced to cut them off. Unable to even continue a friendship with them. How can I trust someone who can’t trust me with their truth?

The sutras state that for one that follows the truth, the truth starts to follow them. I have found this to be true. I always seem to find out in the end. One way or another the truth finds me. Often it is not what I would want to be true, but I would always rather know than not know.

Whatever it is, I can handle the truth. I can’t handle excuses, justifications, bluffing, beating around the bush or point blank lies. I just can’t bear it.

It seems like a total lack of respect to me if someone can’t just tell it like it is.

Take responsibility for your actions. Admit to what you have done. Own up to your mistakes. Own your truth. Whatever it may be.

Those that matter won’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter.

If you take care with your actions not to harm anyone then you should not have a problem owning your actions. If you always act with integrity and respect, with compassion and consideration, with kindness and warmth, then you won’t have any issues in talking about what you have done or how you feel about something. When you say how you feel it can never be wrong.

We all make mistakes, but we don’t all own them. If you can put your hand up and admit to your mistakes, show remorse, say you are sorry when sorry is due, then those that truly love you will forgive you for whatever it is that you have messed up with. Will help you to find a solution to any issue that you have. None of us are perfect, but trying to cover up bad behaviour is never an easy task. The truth will leak out somewhere along the line and you risk losing face and respect which is hard to get back.

The sutras also state that only sweet truth should be spoken. Truth that is only intended to cause pain should NOT be uttered. You should not speak what is false, even if it is sweet. Yet also you should not speak what is true if it is painful. It should be spoken only with a sweet tongue. This is a lesson that I had to learn the hard way (but that’s another story).

So sometimes I push too hard for the truth. I push for people to talk about stuff they don’t feel comfortable talking about. I force an answer, which has not even been decided yet. I am so intent on ‘getting’ the truth that I don’t wait patiently for the truth to come to me. I push for it.

“You know, sometimes you don’t get the answers”, my bendy friend told me, “and that’s okay.”You have to let go off seeking them. You have to be alright not knowing sometimes. Sometimes another person is just unable to share their truth with you. Sometimes there is no answer and you just have to accept that.”

He was right. I realised that I feel uncomfortable in uncertainty. That I have to work on being okay when things are unclear. I have to be able to rest in the uncertainty rather than hunting down the ‘answers’ that could possibly end the uncomfortable-not-knowingness. I have to learn to let things happen. To let the truth find me when it is ready to find me. To let things happen in their own time.

To trust that things were unfolding exactly as they should be.

What is true for me, may not be true for you. The ‘truth’ is nothing but a perception. There are two sides to every story. There are two truths to every relationship—there are facts and there are feelings.

So, the moral of this story?

Don’t get a tattoo off Google images—and the truth—is really nothing but an illusion.



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Assistant Editor: Richard May / Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Bach Tran / 500px.

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