Wednesday, 29 April 2020

3 practices of Brahmacharya

The sudden fear that spread globally like a giant wave, ending up with buying excessive amounts of toilet paper due to rumors of a shortage that started in Australia (from what I've read), is the perfect example why the principle of  Brahmacharya is so important.


Brahmacharya is the fourth Yama, one of the ethical principles of yoga.  The literal translation of Brahamacharya is: Brahma - God, Divine, Creation, Pure Consciousness +  Charya - to follow, to walk, to flow with.  It is about practicing to live in accordance of a godly nature or a lifestyle that is spiritually based rather than materially based.  Many times it is translated as celibacy (as this is a common practice for yogic ascetics), non-excess, non-indulgence of sensory pleasures, or right use of energy. 

With the sudden and lasting change of routines and interactions due to stay at home orders around the world, the ways we have of coping with stress and uncomfortable emotions, particularly coping that is more avoidant and escaping - actually don't work and make things worse. For some, fear is creating
havoc, leading to unhelpful and unhealthy behaviors. 

Fear of lack led to hoarding toilet paper for some people, despite it actually not being a necessary item.  Fear leads us away from a practice of non-excess or non-indulgence. It moves us from inward to outward focus, grasping at all the things we feel we need to hold onto in order to create a false sense of security. (This makes me think of Steve Martin in the movie, "The Jerk," where, left homeless, he clings to a lamp). Fear leads to desire and then anger when we don't get what we feel we 'should.'  It's a vicious, common cycle of the human mind.  It's so common that it is mentioned in a number of yogic scriptures, like Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.  This affliction of the mind has existed when these scriptures were written thousands of years ago and remains relevant today. Brahmacharya is a practice that can help to meet behaviors of excess and overindulgence.

I truly feel that, though this is a challenging time, it is a time of opportunity to practice self-awareness, gain self-understanding, and make conscious changes in how one interacts with the world.  My hope would be that all of us are able to learn and grow from this time period in ways that would not have otherwise happened.

So, here's the fun!  Three practices of Brahmacharya during this stay at home time:

1. First reflection: Where have some indulgences now turned excessive in your life over the past couple of months?  Is it in sleep patterns, eating habits, TV and screen time...?

Once you've identified this, take a step in owning it, commit to doing a week long 'detox' from this behavior and notice what it feels like after the week.  (If there's resistance, you need to do this even more).  For example, no TV for the week or a digital detox (outside of work) or no alcohol (sugar, caffeine, processed food).

Keep an attitude of exploration and curiosity with it. I promise you will learn a lot about yourself!


2. If you haven't done this already, clean out the closets!  Examine what you've been holding onto that you don't use, isn't necessary, and you totally forgot about.  Let it go!   Shed that stagnant energy of clinging and holding.  Notice what emotions come up, what is hard to let go of emotionally and be with it.  Marie Condo's book "The Magic of Tidying Up" has great questions to ask yourself to let go
of things. 

Those material things we cling to "just in case" create a false sense of security, weight us down, and keep us connecting with what we truly value. If you haven't used it or even thought of the item in a year, it's time to think about releasing it.


3. A common practice of Brahmacharya is being willing to see the divine in everyone. It's so easy to blame and react to other people's behaviors...most likely what we react to is the very thing that we avoid or are ashamed of in ourselves.  Challenge yourself to see the divine instead. 

I find starting with compassion can be helpful.  How is this human's behaviors a reflection of their own self-doubt and insecurity?  We ALL feel this at some point.  Try sending compassion as you know what it's like and you two have done self-destructive behaviors too.

A bonus practice is self-compassion and seeing the divine in yourself.


Who's in for the challenge?

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