The fourth of the yogic yamas is #brahmacharaya, which is spiritual and often referred to or translated to mean "celibacy" or "chastity," but I believe this to be an oversimplification of this practice. Although there seems to be several translations for this specific sanskrit term, which speaks to its complexity, the essence to me is in simplifying and protecting your energy to guard your spiritual journey.
I feel this is an important discussion in #wellness because the mindset of brahmacarya or temperance has maybe had a bad rap in our culture. We are a society that greatly values freedom and so many have felt some aspect of oppression, so accumulating, acquiring, and aspiring for more has become part of our nature. We associate moderation with repression. Despite a staggering amount of evidence that excess destroys our dreams and our health, we indulge. We have a blind spot when it comes to finding balance.
Follow Your Heart
In a culture of more, it is hard to sell the concept of less. Given a choice, we tend to hold on. Maybe the first step is mindful awareness and a radical self-awareness? What we resist persists. In yoga we learn to stay with the posture, to hold the posture. Difficulty, discomfort, fear, boredom, distraction - the entire gamut of thoughts and emotions arise, and we simply observe their comings and goings. One of my yoga mentors often says, "Notice what you notice."
We have this Puritan heritage though of "no pain, no gain," or the hard-working, well-intentioned, nothing-less-than-100-percent, gonads-to-the-wall mentality. The fallout from this misconception can be total overwhelm and injury, or maybe more often bitterness and blame. This is typical American fitness, whereas yoga is about turning in, recognizing how your body speaks to you, embracing your authenticity, honoring your needs. Letting go of what doesn't serve you.
Brahmacarya really is about following your heart. Like celibacy, it's about protecting what you may give away in excess or giving in a way that may take away from your own energy. There is chaos in immoderation. It brings us pain and anguish, but moderation offers us a calm, clear energy that allows perspective and affords us opportunity to realize our dreams.
Many of the toughest years of my life were those where I sacrificed moderation. I became consumed by responsibilities, demands, and tasks which caused me to feel a constant feeling of overwhelm, a fear I wasn't living up to my potential. This is self-sabotage. We fear failure. We fear taking two steps back, but sometimes that step back is the most important step we ever make.
Understanding Your Desire
Often at the onset of each year, or through any life transformation, we look to the future with #goals in mind. We want to lose twenty pounds or get a promotion. These can be somewhat burdensome however. Danielle Laporte, author of The Desire Map, suggests that liberation comes through understanding our desires. This helps us understand the why behind our goals, so if you have the goal of publishing, maybe your desire is to write. This allows you to write, and see where this takes you, without attaching yourself to a specific publication that maybe isn't where this writing is intended to take you.
If we look our desire in the eye, what is it telling us? Does this desire make you feel complete? Maybe you feel powerful or free? What is the feeling behind your desire? Those feelings will lead you to your soul, and liberate you from goals which burden you.
Our hearts yearn for peace and many successful people live with the constant belief that after this next big success, peace will lie just around the corner. Yoga is the study of balance, and balance is the aim of all of us. Yoga celebrates what is; it honors our journey and in many ways, if our aim is to alleviate the world's suffering or anyone's suffering, we must begin with our own minds and bodies. We must do yoga.
We have to choose to let go of what is consuming us so we can really actualize that peace we envision. Brahmacarya must be chased after and guarded. We need to learn to make rest a part of our practice, and we need to rest long before we feel exhausted or frustrated. Consider that you simply want to eliminate blocks on the path towards your progress and cultivate the energy you need for your spiritual growth. This is not a test, and you will not be found lacking.
As we take right actions - we pay that bill, make that hard phone call, delay the gratification, take that vacation, reach out to old friends, say yes, say not, show up for life - we accrue more energy. We teach our selves that we are resilient and worthy. This infuses us with the energy to make the next right action. Going to the mat is a form of surrender. Prayer is surrender. "Thy will be done."
Follow your heart. Listen to the wind of your soul. Speak truth to yourself. Let go of what doesn't honor you. Embrace brahmacarya.