When I was a teenager, before I’d ever said to anyone that I thought I might be queer, I imagined that “coming out” would be a huge, earth-shattering, and singular event. Then I came out to my best friend at church, and I realized I ought come out to the rest of my friends too. I came out to even more people when I started dating a woman my freshman year of college. I came out to my parents the next year, after we’d been dating in secret for too long. And I came out to more of my extended family the year after that, when my face ended up on the front page of the newspaper at a rally in support of gay marriage. Oops.
It feels like I’ve been coming out ever since.
The second quality in the Yamas, Patanjali’s list of guidelines for living an ethical life, is Satya, which translates as truthfulness. It’s relevant that here Patanjali doesn’t require a non-action in the way he talks about many of the other Yamas. Here it’s a positive action. The call is not for non-lying, but for full-on truthfulness.
Before I was out as queer, I rarely lied outright about who I am, but I often lied by omission, leaving out a crucial detail in a story, neglecting to mention that the friend I was referencing was really my girlfriend. A lie of omission is still a lie. Part of living fully in the truth is not hiding relevant pieces of information about who we are.
Remember that the Yamas are the first part of the path of Yoga. Dealing with our relationships with others is where we must start to have any hope of creating a state of Yoga (a ceasing of the fluctuations of the mind.) If you’re lying about, or even just hiding, the truth about yourself, you set yourself up for strife. Drama keeps your mind full of thoughts, aka fluctuations of the mind, which in turn keeps you from being able to reside in your own True Nature, which is ultimately the point of practicing Yoga (Sutra 1.3).
I often feel like coming out has never really stopped. When I’ve dated a man for any length of time, I have to come out again to family or to new friends who might simply assume that because I’m with a man that I must be straight. Living in Satya requires that we be “out” about who we are. When we’re “closeted”, we are always living to some degree in untruthfulness.
Maybe for you it’s not about being queer, but all of us have aspects of ourselves that feel uncomfortable to reveal. There are things we’d rather that the whole world not know, that we’d rather no one knew. Where are you hiding? What do you need to come out about? I’d love to hear from you!
If you want to think more about Satya, earlier this year I wrote extensively about quitting lying, even in the smallest form, for the forty days of Lent. Read all the reasons I tell lies, and probably why you do too.
- Why I Tell Lies, Part One
- Why I Tell Lies, Part Two
- Why I Tell Lies, Part Three
- Why I Tell Lies, Part Four