February 24, 2012
This weeks study has been with the niyama, saucha. Saucha means “purity”, or “cleanliness”. When we think of keeping ourselves clean, we may first associate this with keeping our external physical body clean. While this is an aspect of this teaching, saucha also means to keep the internal physical, mental, emotional and spiritual body clean and pure as well.
While we are experiencing the change of seasons into Spring, this is an optimal opportunity for putting to practice a detox plan, and to clean out our homes and spaces. We may be holding onto excess clutter in our homes, work spaces. We may also be holding in our bodies toxins from a poor diet, or medication from the cold we just recovered from. Some detox methods may include a daily juice/fruit fast. Flushing the nasal cavity with saline in a neti pot is also a good practice. We can drink detox tea, and brush the skin, cover the body in sesame or coconut oil and soak in a hot bath with epsom salts all for detoxifying benefits.
When we purify our bodies and minds, we become less cluttered and heavy. Purification brings about a clarity and lightness to our very being. Our energy becomes awakened, pure, revitalized and fresh.
We can invite a lightness to our mind by practicing forgiveness. When we learn to forgive ourselves, and others, it is a wondrous gift we offer ourselves.
To allow for purity of our lives, we can also practice living in each moment just the way it is. We do not try to change, clean, fix or modify each moment, situation, or another person. When we allow someone to be themselves, without our preconceived ideas about who they are, our experience becomes more pure and beautiful. We learn to live with purity in our hearts, and the moment is transformed. This too, is saucha.
As Deborah Adele states; “We fail this guideline in any of our attempts to change, judge, criticize, alter, control, manipulate, pretend, be disappointed, or check out.
Being pure with ourselves means we are not afraid of our thoughts or our feelings, and we do not have to hide anything from ourselves. The practice of purity asks us to slow down and do one thing at a time.
Purity asks that we make full and honest contact with the moment so there is nothing lost and no regrets.”
February 19, 2012
Our fifth Yama, or Aparigraha is non-possessiveness, non-attachment, or non-greed. By practicing aparigraha, we allow ourselves to not become attached to any thing, event, situation, practice or person but allow for immense enjoyment from these. You can enjoy life, live to the fullest, and still be able to drop everything to start anew. Every moment is being born and dying when the next one is here. We realize that our enjoyment, and happiness does not come from any external thing or situation, but rather deep within ourselves. This teaching tells us to “let go”.
We gain freedom by letting go of grasping, of trying to gain more, of trying to get ahead…for what we try to possess, possesses us.
Deborah Adele states “Like the breath when it is held too long, the things that nourish us can become toxic. Aparigraha invites us to practice divine play, experience full intimacy and contact with the moment, and then to let go so the next thing can come.”
The very nature of aparigraha is impermanence. Everything changes, and the more flexible we can become throughout change, the more at ease and happy we will remain.
Let go of an attachment to having expectations about how anything will be. Let go of the attachment that a particular material possession will bring you enjoyment, and find it in this very moment of life. Connect with this very breath, the delicious nourishment that is offered to you right now. Having attachments in any way can keep us captive, so instead, choose freedom.
Do not hoard items, or collect things because they are all “free” or on sale. They will still take up space and demand attention at some point.
Let go of your idea of how life should be like. This will keep you from learning and stagnate self-growth. Attachments to routine, plans, and expectations keep you blinded to all of the wonderful new opportunities around you! Live in the moment without a set plan. Let go of the many tasks, resentments and unforgiven moments that you may also be carrying with you from day to day.
Again, Deborah Adele has a beautiful way of explaining “Non-attachment does not mean that we don’t care or that we somehow shut ourselves off from the pleasures of joy of life and each other. In fact, non-attachment frees us up to be immersed in appreciation of life and one another.
A bird cannot hold its perch and fly. Neither can we grasp anything and be free.”
February 10, 2012
Our intention for this weeks class was Brahmacharya, as the fourth Yama in the ethical teachings of Yoga. Brahmacharya literally translates as “walking with God”. In class, and/or whenever I mention the word “God”, it does not mean just one thing. This word can represent ones inner Self, the Universe, Cosmos, any Ultimate Reality, Divinity, Higher Power, Truth, something larger than ourselves. Yoga is not a religion, however it can be used as a tool to enhance whatever ones spritiual beliefs or non-beliefs are. Even agnostics, or atheists can practice Yoga, and its ethical teachings.
Practicing Brahmacharya, we can recognize each and every personal action or thought as a sacred, magnificent gift. I had the pleasure of spending some time with Bhagavan Das this past weekend and one thing that he said, really resonated with me, and is connected to this teaching. He said “It is very difficult to be given this life, to be born as a precious human. But, it is very easy to lose it. Death may come at any moment. Do not squander your life away, live every moment in Holy name.”
When we develop a sense of wonder, and awe for every simple function, appreciating this very moment, this very breath…we are practicing Brahmacharya.
Once understood as meaning “celibacy”, this teaching is now better understood as a conservation of energy, or non-excess. We can allow ourselves to be with the pleasure of life, whether it be eating, sleeping, making love, or partaking in any action without allowing it to become excessive, or addictive. Practicing perfect balance, having harmony in all things is understanding this.
Having self-control, simplifying, unloading all of the material things can also give us a sense of freedom. While we eat, do so mindfully so that we stop eating when the body is satiated instead of over-indulging until we are uncomfortable and may regret it later. Eating becomes a sacred, or Holy action of nourishing the body.
When all actions, feelings and thoughts are honored and balanced harmoniously with ones energy, and with God, we understand Brahmacharya.
February 2, 2012
As the third Yama, or moral restraint in the ethical teachings of Yoga, we are exploring Asteya. There are many ways that we steal from ourselves, from others, from our future, from our earth and we are taking a good look at how we do these.
Asteya calls us to live with integrity. If we are living in fears, our dissatisfaction with ourselves and our lives leads us to look outward. We steal from our own opportunity for personal growth if we do not allow ourselves time to contemplate, to look deep within, and understand how we are truly living with integrity.
Again from Deborah Adele’s book on Yamas & Niyamas, she states “An outward focus leads us to compare ourselves to others and to send our energy into their lives in unhealthy ways. when we compare ourselves to others, we either find ourselves lacking, which makes us feel somehow cheated, or we find ourselves superior, which leaves us feeling somewhat arrogant. Our attention on others from a place of discontent within ourselves can lead us to live vicariously through others or to try to control, manipulate, or manage them in order to boost our own sagging ego.”
We also “steal from others by not paying attention to them or discounting them. When we are genuinely caring of the other, that caring finds expression in ways that feel supportive and tender to the other.”
Have we lifted someone else up, or supported someone through genuine caring and really listening? Do we sincerely compliment others, or simply exchange a smile?
When we are stealing from the earth, we forget that we are spirits having a human experience. Deborah Adele states “We are visitors to this land, to our bodies, to our minds. To fully appreciate this reality is to accept that nothing on this physical plane does or can belong to us. This guideline asks us to view everything in our possession as something precious that is on loan to us. And for the time that it is on loan to us, we are asked to care for it.
Developing and maintaining a sense of gratitude is a way that we can practice Asteya. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we can allow ourselves to be truly grateful for all of the abundance that is right before us! We can be grateful for the many hands that go into the manufacturing, delivering, supplying and caring for goods that we may take for granted on a daily basis. Understand that we are all interconnected in our roles on this planet.
Ultimately, we steal from our future by lusting over goals and possessions. If we can allow ourselves time to sit and look within, we would have the ability to see that we spend too much time dreaming about the future and possibilities of what may come. We lose touch with our competency of right now. We lose the ability to seeing what is right before us. Being present and real, is a way to practice Asteya.