The ancient yogis knew that changing ourselves and the way we view the world was going to be hard as fuck! The human race haven't exactly been wired for bliss.
Hence the Eight-limbed path of yoga, as outlined by Patanjali some two thousand years ago. Each step moves us from gross to subtle. Each step takes us deeper within. Towards the ultimate truth.
The path starts with what can be seen as the ten commandments of yoga, the yamas and the niyamas.
In this blog post I will talk about the yamas.
They are: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Bramacharya ( there are many ways to translate this; celibacy, moderation, not exploiting anyone sexually) and, finally, Aparigraha (Non-greediness, not taking more than one needs).
I look at Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as the first self-help book ever. I love reading it. The more I study it, the more I practice asana, but even more so, meditation, the more sense it all makes. It's totally non-dogmatic (there's a lot of; if this doesn't work try that, if that doesn't work, you can try this), and universal.
I have been practicing yoga steadily for over 18 years, it's been about 22 years since I first begun to explore it.
And still, I am so shit at the first limb. I can't even live by the yamas.
Starting with the first yama, Ahimsa. Traditionally this has meant vegetarianism. But hello, dairy industry is super-violent, how can that be deemed ok? I lived as a vegan for about six years, but even so, I still did violence on the world. The quinoa, coffee, bananas, chocolate and avocado I nourish myself with, has often been produced under less than stellar conditions for the people who did the harvesting, not to mention the negative impact on the earth's temperature the shipping of these items across the world has.
And I still hurt people with my words and actions, even when I don't want to, even when I don't mean it. But even worse, sometimes I mean to (in the heat of the moment).
Let me ponder Satya (truthfulness). This is an area where I have improved. Especially when it comes to lying to myself. In the past, I've spent so much time and energy pretending that I didn't give a fuck, that I wasn't hurt. I lied to myself. I lied to others. I've also told a lot of so called 'white lies,' in order to spare others hurt. But now I've come to believe that the truth is always best, in the long run. But I don't always manage to live by Satya.
When it comes to asteya (non-stealing) I also feel I have gotten better. I would never dream about shop-lifting, or stealing change from my parents' pockets -- something I did as a teenager. I will do my best to give back items or money that I borrow. But I'm sure I forget sometimes. And isn't the way I use up way too much of the earth's resources a way of stealing?
The fourth yama is Bramacharya. I certainly don't live in celibacy. And I could probably use to moderate my senses more. Finding my joy, my peace within, instead of always looking for pleasure through the senses. I probably love eating a little too much, for example ...
In the past I have definitely exploited people sexually. I have used my sexuality to try to get what I wanted. I have flirted with people to get validation, knowing that I was playing with their feelings. I have cheated on partners (which also means fucking up ahimsa and satya while at it). I hope all of this is behind me, especially since I'm moving further and further into middle age, and have less and less seductive powers. But, even here, at best, I am work in progress.
The last yama is Aprigraha (non-greediness/not taking more than one needs). Here I feel that just by being a European Iiving in Europe, I've fucked up majorly. Every time I make a simple little purchase, an oat milk Flat White, a record, a book -- I'm taking more than I need. I could have donated the money to someone who truly needed it.
But I have found more pleasure in giving than receiving. I'm less likely to take the last cookie. And I'm way less concerned with my possessions.
Baby steps, I guess.
How do you feel about the Yamas?