Is that for real?

Is this spider for realz?
Is this spider for realz?

Satvada is a big yogic concept for me these days.  Satvada is the idea that everything is real.  Dreams, thoughts, ideas, fantasies… it’s all real.  Even misunderstanding and confusion is real.

Satvada eliminates a whole realm of discussions that I like to have with myself.  The “is that real?” discussion.  It goes like this: “Did I imagine that she was giving me the stink eye?  Have I made up a story that is just in my head but isn’t actually happening?  Am I remembering what actually happening or were my feelings getting in the way of seeing that clearly?” Guess what.  It doesn’t matter if I’m imagining, misunderstanding, confused, neurotic, or so blissed out that everything is rosy.  Real is anything that I experienced and felt.  And you know why? Because real or imagined, that stuff that is going on in my head and in my feeling world is influencing how I’m behaving, like it or not.  How I perceive a situation affects my behavior.  My perceptions, accurate or inaccurate, are real.

This really does simplify things for me.  I’m no longer having that annoying analytical debate centered around figuring out if something is worth figuring out.  Satvada says it’s all happening to me so it’s significant.  It’s all a part of my experience and correct or incorrect, it is real.  The experience of understanding correctly, misunderstanding, feeling, thinking, imagining, creating is really happening in my mind or system so, yeah, it’s real.  It has the power to influence how I see things and how I behave.

Self-doubt is really devastating to the ole self-confidence.  I have a way of backing myself into a corners with, “was that real or am I making this up”?  I couldn’t even allow myself to feel angry or hurt or sad because “maybe I was just imagining it all and really, I should get my shit together and not feel that way at all”.  That sort of thing leads to denial and suppression of feelings and all that sort of unhelpful, therapy worthy work.   Satvada has given me permission  to believe what I’m feeling.  Because I am no longer questioning whether what I’m feeling is real, or worthwhile or “just in my head,”  I get to skip ahead to, “there that is again and what is there to do about it?”  It is empowering.  At a subtle level, this is helping me to trust myself more fully.  It’s kind of like satvada lets us acknowledge the elephant in the room and then try to figure out the real challenge of what to do about it instead of worrying if that elephant in the room is real or not.

This may sound like something small, but it has had a big effect on how I think about and see myself in the world.  Because I now I don’t discount what I think and feel—I don’t discount the emotions that come up and I don’t try to ignore the stuff I’m feeling that isn’t congruent with the way I wish I felt.  Satvada allows me to say, “I felt this way and it’s real and it had an impact on what I did in that situation.”


9 thoughts on “Is that for real?

    1. Hi Jennifer. My info on this concept comes from “Heart of Yoga” by T.K.V. Desikachar. In the chapter called, “the foundations of yoga practice” he says, “If we subscribe to yogic concepts, then everything that we see, experience, and feel is not illusion; it is true and real. Everything is real, including dreams, ideas and fantasies. Even avidya itself is real. This concept is called “satvada.” He mentions it again in his commentary on yoga sutra 3.14 and says “The significance of sutras 3.9-3.14 is that everything that we perceive is fact and not fiction. But these facts are subject to change. These two rules of Patanjali, known as satvada and parinamavada, are the foundation of his teaching.”

      It was this “foundation of his teaching” that got me a-thinking about these ideas again. Because a practice of yoga has so much to do with learning how our perception affects our behavior AND then how to balance our systems so we have a better chance at clear perception, this thing about satvada feels like one of those candy land slides that lets you skip ahead on the path. Just allowing ourselves to listen to those (sometimes crazy) things that come up and to know that they influence how we are in the world, even if other points of view/people don’t think imagination, emotions, inexplicable feelings should qualify, Patanjali does, and that’s good enough for me.

      1. As a little follow up to your question, I looked up “satvada” in the index of all my other yoga books and it wasn’t listed in any of them. I then did a little internet looksie and not much there either– some retreat center, a few blog posts, a few yoga websites mention it in their overviews of the yoga sutras. So where can we do more reading on this “foundational concept”? Let me know if you come up with anything, lady. will ya?

      2. I will definitely let you know if you find anything. I did not find anything in the few books I own. What I found on the internet implied that satvada is translated to facts. I almost wonder if Desikachar was given this wisdom from his inner guide rather than through other books and it just did not become common writing. I wonder if he saw something in the interpretation of the sutras that others did not. It makes complete sense that all that we experience is real.

        A Course in Miracles says “Every thought you have makes up some segment of the world you see. It is with your thoughts, then, that we must work, if your perception of the world is to be changed.”

        So what we think, what we perceive, is very real. We must work with these thoughts to change the reality. It seems to be similar to this concept of satvada and how we perceive everything as fact.

        I have not read the Heart of Yoga but have come across the title a few times. Thank you for taking the time to answer. I have copied your reply and will be adding it to my little notes.

  1. So I had this “for real?” Hard experience these last few days. Your post helped me reflect on it-thank you. Once i realized the hurt (and related layers) was real for me, and true for him too, it has led once again to the unruly question of “what to do about it” That question is a big one! There is a whole lot of effin’ technicolor real in relationships (specifically inside me, in relation to them). I’m wiped by it! Thanks for the solace and comraderie your post provided.

    1. Aaaaah, yes. “What to do with all these feelings that are real?” This is a big question, and one that is not easy to answer. But just the fact that THIS is the question is evidence of how highly evolved and awesome you are. xo lady. I love you.

      1. Thank God for you! You may be the only one who thinks so today. :-). Well, thankfully my dog digs me the most too (it’s mutual). I have to say, my dog does a good job helping me clear my perceptive lens too. Hooray for Patanjali and doggies both!

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