Applying The 8-Limbed Path In Today’s World
Patanjali, sitting meditatively and at peace. Incorporating the 8-limbed path into your daily routine will have you resting meditatively in every aspect of your life. Rush hour traffic, no problem; deadlines, no problem; health, no problem. Wash away depression and anxiety without doctors, medications or side effects.
The only side effect will be a peaceful in the moment life, of calm, at every turn. This is not to say following this path will be easy however, it is possible if you are willing to put in the effort. Let’s first notice that each limb is equal to the next and necessary. Taking each limb beyond the specific text and truly diving into the meaning that applies to your life is how to live the 8 limbs. Sure we can see that we should refrain from hitting, or kill bugs but taking the thought deeper is how we truly begin to live the limb.
The first of the 8 Limbs is Yama; restraints things we should avoid doing.
There are 5 Yamas. This first is Ahimsa, non-violence. How can we tune that into everyday life? Eating healthy, treating our body without harm, feeding our mind with positive intellect, being kind with our words when we speak. The second thought here is if we are non-harming and this is a restraint, then should we also consider if the words hurt, avoid saying them.
Satya the second Yama, truthfulness, vastly important to our life. Telling the truth to others, to our self and living truth brings liberation. Tied to the first Yama, it becomes a little harder. If the truth hurts, should we refrain from saying it? The incorporation of truthfulness comes a quiet liberation of fearlessness. No need to fear anyone and the possibility of living as an open free life evolves. A life of living the truth suggests that saying “I don’t know”, when you do know is effectively a lie. Try saying, “I know, but I would rather not say”, if the truth would hurt; Ahimsa. We can begin to see here how each is tied to the next.
Asteya the third Yama, non-stealing. Consider for a moment that we can steal time. Living your life is truly living each and every moment to the greatest use. Of course we can steal, money, rob a bank, steal a pen from work but think just a little more inward. How can you steal from yourself, your family your life? We steal from nature by destroying the land in which we can grow crops. We steal from the ocean by dumping chemicals into our rivers and streams. Take a moment and ponder the thought that we steal from our health by not taking the time to consider the nourishment we put into our body. Then think about Ahimsa, we are hurting our body and Satya by not living free of lies about the chemicals that harm the rivers, stream and oceans. It all comes together quite nicely. Effort is the magic.
Brahmacarya number four in the Yamas, moderation, conserving our energy your vigor, allowing for the body and mind to be strong, physically and mentally. This limb can become slightly convoluted. Some consider this to be celibacy however, we are discussing living the limbs today. How do you love, with an open heart that gives and receives equal shares or do you only give or only receive? The equality is the important piece here. Do you binge on fine wine or do you sip a glass occasionally? If a child cries for candy are you harming (Ahimsa) the child by giving more; not telling the child its harmful (Satya) and depleting the life of the child, Asteya? Now we can truly tie together how we can live the ancient practice with in our life today.
Aparigraha the fifth Yama, non-greed. In today’s world, we live a life of excess. The amount of food that is thrown away everyday is a bit disturbing. This is perfect for cleaning out the old and not replacing it. Live and use only what you personally can use. Hoarding for a rainy day steals from others that may not have the opportunity to buy in such quantity or it may deplete the stock a store may have for the entire community. Buy local and buy daily. Consider the local markets that support a strong community where the business owners are from your neighborhood and not a giant conglomerate. We can also be greedy in knowledge and expertise, share with your community what you know help a neighbor that may not have the same knowledge as you. Non-grasping, or attachment is in alignment with this Yama. Consider holding on to things we no longer need and let it go.
The Yamas are wise characteristics not just a list of do’s and don’t’s, they allow us to understand our fundamental nature is compassionate, honest and peaceful.
Niyama, observances, training, tuning into yourself, the mastering of oneself. There are five Niyamas.
We begin here with Soucha, purity; inward and outward cleanliness. This may seem rather simple at first: wash our body, have good food. Well, diving a little deeper into the thought of a pure mind free of attachment, greed and lust aparigraha. A clear mind free of hate, jealousy and anger allows us to enter into a peaceful heart willing to receive the goodness the universe has waiting for us. And when we are not contaminated with toxins, alcohol, or meats the mind and body connect in such a beautiful manner we are truly set free.
Niyama number two, Santosha, contentment; being satisfied, lacking desire. When contentment is found, desire, greed and lust all fall away. Being content is the limb that actually sets us free from anxiety. Desire for yesterday, tomorrow and more generates depression, anxiety and many health issues. Being centered in the present moment, place and time is contentment. This frees us from an impure mind, anger and greed. Santosha teaches us to find happiness in what we have rather than finding unhappiness for what we don’t have. Santosha ties other limbs nicely to peaceful bliss.
Tapas, the third Niyama, heat. This limb teaches us that being unaffected by opposites is where we find strength; literally finding peace in hot or cold, hungry or thirst, sitting or standing. Tapas is the heat that ensure our mind to be pure and clean. Tapas is found through asana and pranayama practice. Tapas is generated to cleanse the body of toxins. Being active cleans the body through its natural processes, sweat, bowl movements and urination. Eating good food, moderation and keeping the body moving free of disease, this is Tapas.
Swadhyaya is the fourth Niyama, self-study, all activities that require self-inquiry. The study of one’s conscience. Welcoming one’s fields of expertise equally to one’s limitations. Focus rests on the person without the ability to rest on others, therefore removing judgement, comparing, ego of better or best, good or bad. With this focus, the consciousness becomes full of self awareness. Desire, for worldly objects diminish and spirituality grows with in the conscious awareness.
The fifth Niyama is Ishvara Pranidhana, surrender to a higher power. This is often reflected as god, however if we are using these precepts in today’s world we may understand this to be any god, multiple gods or what ever higher power we align with. The sun, the moon, both very strong and powerful energy sources, capable of offering powerful blessing. Truly we are giving our self freely to the universe and accepting all that the universe has to give us, becoming vulnerable and accepting. Love is purified in our heart and explodes outward with all our actions when collectively.
The Yamas and Niyamas are part of our everyday lives. Each Yama is equal to the next and equally as important. The flow of one precept to the next is building a solid foundation so the body, mind and spirit can flow as one body of consciousness within that one body.
“Yamas and Niyamas together Patanjali called the Mahavratam, great vows. The Great Vows are universal, not limited by class, place, time or circumstance.” – Patanjali.
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