April 12th, 2012
Brahmacharya, the 4th yama, is about living a balanced and moderate life.
Historically, brahmacharya meant sexual abstinence. For most yoga practitioners today it refers to using sexual energy ethically and wisely.
Brahmacharya also relates to how we use our energy in all areas of life. This extends to discrimination in our actions, speech, and even our thoughts. The practice of brahmacharya encourages us to think about how we want to harness our body’s vital energy; where our priorities lie and what is most harmonious for our spiritual growth.
As Nischala Joy Devi says in The Secret Power of Yoga, “It is a time to explore and set patterns as to where and how you want to direct your energy.”
Here are reflections from a couple of sages who were not yogis but espouse the essence of brahmacharya:
A man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time well. – Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials. – Lin Yutang (1895-1976)
March 12th, 2012
Asteya is the third yama or disciplined restraint in yoga. Asteya translates as non-stealing. Taking something that doesn’t belong to us causes stress, over-excitement, chaos, or fear: it eats up our peace of mind. We don’t have to be a bank robber, shoplifter or embezzler to be stealing. There are many subtle ways of violating asteya:
~keeping things we borrowed
~stealing ideas without acknowledgment
~depriving someone of their due reward or good name
~being possessive in relationships
~withholding time, energy, or love in relationships
According to Vimala Mclure in the Ethics of Love, when we steal we diminish our innermost selves. When we cheat on our income taxes, lie on a loan application, or keep a wallet we found, our conscience throws up a flag. “Warning: part of your spirit has just died.”
Asteya is an encounter with the power of non-attachment. When we look honestly at the subtle ways we’ve been stealing we may come to understand that in each instance there is an attachment to a specific outcome.
Rolph Gates offers specific examples: “We want the last orange in the refrigerator more than we want to be a good partner or we have a tough week at work so we under tip the waiter at the diner.”
Beneath the attachment lies a basic fear of not being taken care of. Living in accord with asteya is a practice in faith building.
Many of the writings about asteya point out that generosity and honesty are the antidotes to stealing and that practicing asteya bestows material and spiritual prosperity.
In order to practice asteya consider where you can become more transparent. Ask yourself how to cultivate more generosity and honesty in your everyday life.
To sum it up, Swami Satchidananda says, “Traditionally people who are well established in the virtue of non-stealing are described as always being sustained by life; they never lack anything for further growth.”
January 30th, 2012
Satya is the second yama or discipline in the yogic code of conduct. Satya is speaking the truth with a spirit of kindness.
The practice of yoga values simplicity and clarity. When we tell the truth we have a clean conscience. Lying usually ends up causing complication, confusion, or guilt. It is difficult to follow a spiritual path burdened with these states.
In yoga it is said when the mind becomes serene, the true Self is reflected clearly and we are able to realize the Truth of our original nature.
Satya in our personal lives means to be honest with ourselves. Satya in our relationships means honesty and the right use of words with a spirit of benevolence. Satya in our social and political choices means standing up for our truest values and beliefs.
In The Ethics of Love Vimala McClure suggests ways we can practice Satya in everyday life. She encourages us to
• See, hear, feel and speak what is really going on
• Empower and encourage yourself and others
• Practice honesty
• State needs and feelings
• Align thoughts, words and actions
• Keep your word
Satya is about living an honest life and is central to the path of yoga.