Nothing

While celibacy seemed extreme for the previous Yama,  our very last one, Aparigraha, may just seem impossible. Simply put, do not be attached to anything.

In its simplest form, it asks us to not be greedy. This sutra is sometimes translated as non-hoarding or non-greed, but perhaps its most common translation is non-attachment. In a more profound sense, it’s instructing us to let go of our attachment to everything. And be okay with it.

Your stuff, your pets, your children, your thoughts, your beliefs, even your body.

Let’s unpack these.
  • STUFF: Not being greedy with things seems quite doable and even noble. Take only what you need. Right Now. Not for someday. How many ‘things’ do you have that you just might need someday? At its core, Aparigraha is asking you to consider that those things you’re holding onto may be able to serve someone else right now. Do you really plan to wear your high school jeans again or take up origami?
  • PETS: Aren’t pets the best teachers for letting go? Their lifespans are so much shorter than ours and nearly everyone has experienced the heart-wrenching loss of a beloved pet. They teach us unconditional love and trust, making our bond with them even stronger and causing their loss to feel even more profound. Yet, we have to let go.
  • PEOPLE: This one feels ridiculous. Don’t get attached to my children? My parents? My spouse? Perhaps this is best viewed through the lens of allowing rather than letting go. We bring into our lives those who have the most to teach us about ourselves, which presents us with challenges almost daily. Allowing the other person to be who they are, quirks and all, is a form of non-attachment. We are not seeking to change them, or control them. We love them deeply, and we allow them to be who they are, thereby allowing them to grow into who they are meant to be.
  • THOUGHTS AND BELIEFS: We understand more and more how much our thoughts create our reality. Perhaps this would be the best place to begin practicing non-attachment. Not letting go of thoughts, necessarily, but watching them with curiosity and a little space. Wondering where that thought or belief came from. Considering the beliefs of others. And, perhaps the best work we can do here, is letting go of expectations. Yogi Amrit Desai is known to say, “The only problem we have is wanting things to be different than the way they are.” Plan, set goals, work toward those goals, but let go of the outcome. Allowing it to evolve organically will likely bring more rewards than forcing it to be what you imagined.
  • BODY: How does one not attach to their physical form, yet remain alive? This aspect of Aparigraha is the depth of non-attachment. Trust the process of birth, life, death, rebirth. The body already dies on a regular basis, organs replace themselves over time, wounds heal, the breath is life and death itself. Loving the body without attachment allows you, the passenger, to make sound decisions about its health and well-being. The body will decay and die. This is not news. You are consciousness and that can never be destroyed. Your energy is eternal. Know, on a soul level, that you are consciousness itself so YOU can never be destroyed. Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., a cell biologist has a really beautiful analogy for consciousness and death in his book, The Biology of Belief. He compares the human body to a television set. And you to a program on television. When the TV ‘dies,’ the program does not.


Practicing Aparigraha is a life-long endeavor, much like yoga itself. Step by step, we can begin by letting go of some physical stuff, purging, donating objects that would better serve someone else. Then, we can let go of our attachments to certain ideas or beliefs, allowing for the ideas and opinions of others. Maybe we let go of expectation and anticipation, greatly reducing our personal stress. Then the bigger stuff won’t seem so overwhelming. Practicing non-attachment is truly liberating. When we let go of attachments, we lay ourselves wide open to receive the abundance that is always available to us.

 

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No Sex For You

 

Let’s say you’ve been doing yoga for a little while and you’re beginning to sense that there’s more to this than making some poses. You ask a few questions, do some investigating on your own and come across the Eight Limbs of Yoga. As you delve a little deeper you find, buried in the first limb, Yama, a funky word that starts with a ‘b’ and translates to celibacy.

What?

You could slam your laptop shut, drink a bottle of pinot and take your eco-friendly mat to nearest shredder. OR, you could dig a little deeper.

Yes, Brahmacharya does mean celibacy. When the Sutras were just an oral tradition, and even once they were codified by Patanjali a couple thousand years ago, they were meant mostly for renunciates - yoga monks, if you will - known as Swamis. They were meant for men seeking the spiritual path of union with the Divine.

Today, yoga has opened wide up to include everyone. Even women. Because of the influx of so many people finding the benefits of yoga, from the postures to the philosophy, two paths have emerged: that of the Swami and that of the Householder – the rest of us.

As Householders, we are at liberty to observe all the yogic principles and live a kind, compassionate life, just as a Swami might. While it may seem very enticing to crawl into a cave and meditate for 18 years, the yogi sages recognized that those with families, who were procreating, could benefit from the foundational principles of yoga as well and be every bit as devoted to the Divine.

In the past 100 years or so yoga has shape-shifted into many things: power yoga, hot yoga, yin yoga, vinyasa, and even naked yoga, but at its true core remains the principles of the philosophy. And that is where we find Brahmacharya.

For Householders, this translates to moderation in all appetites, including sex. And eating, and sleeping, and talking, and gossiping, and spending money -  anything that can become excessive or an over-indulgence.

When we control our impulses to do those things that bring us instant gratification, we are harnessing energy or prana for use toward our greater good, service to others or higher pursuits. The yogis of the cave ilk, repressed sexual urges to transmute that energy to devotion to the Divine. 

Swami Satchidananda explains, “Seminal fluid is our life. If stored properly, it can bring a lot of energy. When absorbed into the system it gets transformed into prana. Conserved sexual energy in women also gets transformed. It is the vital force that allows you to really help people and have good relationships.”

Prana is our vital life force, and when we engage in activities to excess, we are depleting our prana -  giving it away. When we limit our indulgences, we are able to store that prana to be used for our own growth. Instead of flowing down and out, it can be channeled upward to the higher energy centers of the body, known as chakras, for compassion, empathy, love, study, teaching, prayer, meditation.

Put another way, “Devoted to living a balanced and moderate life, the scope of one’s life force becomes boundless.” Nischala Joy Devi from The Secret Power of Yoga.

 


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Put Back the Post-It Notes and Paper Clips

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The third Yama – Asteya – encourages us not to steal. Anything. And non-stealing goes way beyond office supplies, even way beyond physical stuff.

Webster defines stealing as: 1. To take (something that does not belong to you) in a way that is wrong or illegal, 2. To take (something that you are not supposed to have) without asking for permission and 3. To wrongly take and use (another person’s idea, words, etc.)

In every cases it involves taking.

Consider the following:

TARDINESS Being late, especially habitually, is more than just disrespectful, it is stealing someone else’s time. And the message is clear; my time is more valuable than yours. By being habitually late you also rob yourself of time.  You are likely trying to get just one more thing done, rushing around and not being present in anything you’re doing, only to show up harried and apologetic to a friend whose disappointment is clear. Slow down, edit the to-do list, create space. Honor the time you spend with others.

INTERRUPTING Aside from sending Miss Manners into a tailspin, speaking over someone else is stealing their voice, their thunder, and maybe even their presence. It’s a compulsion we all share; something just popped into your head and before you forget it, you have to blurt it out. It’s that important. Only it’s not. When we quietly and mindfully listen to the other person, we are honoring their process. If it is a solution they are seeking, they will make their way to it. Allow this to happen for them. Listen with the intent of hearing, not responding. Your response will be so much more thoughtful. Or as Stephen Covey so eloquently stated, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

COMPLAINING Griping, which is typically gossip-inducing, is stealing someone else’s energy. By complaining, especially without a solution in mind (which would actually be problem-solving and not complaining at all) drains your own energy and now you’re asking someone else to solve a problem for you that likely isn’t a problem at all but rather a distraction that you have created to communicate with, or get the attention of, someone else. Often complaining is an effort to pull someone else down into drama. It is campaigning against someone else. Instead spend a few moments trying to solve the problem you have uncovered. Perhaps you’ll realize it’s not a problem at all. Maybe it’s just friendly conversation you are seeking. Keep Eleanor Roosevelt’s sage words in mind; “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.”

STEALING STUFF This is probably the most obvious. But here’s the thing, stealing or even coveting the possessions of others exacerbates a lack mentality, sending waves out into the void transmitting that you believe you do not have enough, and indeed, are not enough. You should stop that right now. You are calling to yourself the very opposite of abundance. Instead know, or say to yourself, that you have exactly what you need and just start to pay attention. Everything shows up. It may not look exactly as you pictured it, but it will make its way to you when the timing is right.

TAKING FREE STUFF How can it be stealing if it’s free, you ask? If you don’t need it, you are taking it from someone who may AND you are transmitting that lack signal again. You already have what you need. If you need it, really need it, take it.

The karmic antidote to all this lack-producing naughty behavior is to give. There is a tremendous amount of scientific documentation on the power of giving. Physically it fires off dopamine and other feel happy transmitters, making your feel good. Energetically, you are creating an opening for more to come in. Giving away your car does not mean you will be receiving a new car. But giving your mat everything you have in your yoga practice usually means your cup will be emptied of anything you no longer need so that it can be filled with what you do.

Yogi Amrit Desai so eloquently summarizes this yama, "We must recognize that the underlying premise in all stealing, coveting or jealousy is the belief that we are not sufficient, whole or complete. We practice asteya as an affirmation that we need nothing outside of ourselves to feel complete. We are enough as we are."

You are enough as you are. Give from there.

 


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Your Baby is Ugly

“Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” - Sufi saying Satya invites us to walk the slippery slope between cold, hard facts and a softer, gentler version of the truth, but it is always asking us not to lie. Instead it is asking us to live with integrity. Is what we are saying, and how we are saying it, in alignment with our higher consciousness? Read More

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