Yoga’s Acts Of Integrity (Yama) — Part Four
4. BRAHAMACARYA — FOLLOW GOD, FOLLOW LOVE
On the foundation of the yogic path of self-regulation lie ethical and moral precepts, which are specific examples of the standards or guidelines that contribute to self-control.
These ethical precepts are contained in the first and second limbs of Patanjali’s eightfold yoga path, namely Yama and Niyama, respectively.
Yama refers to ethics regarding the outside world, and therefore, is particularly important in social contexts.
It comprises non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation of senses, and greedlessness.
The word Brahmacarya (pronounced brah-ma-char-yah) means “to follow God.”
Its spirit is to accept that a higher power permeates every atom of the universe, and there is a universal rhythm—a flow—that goes on beyond our comprehension, in which everything is balanced and brought to order.
The spirit of unity as an ethic of everyday life is to accept that God is love and that love is the force to which we can surrender our lives.
If we think of God as a mean-spirited, spiteful giant who exacts punishment for our sins, this surrender is certainly not a good idea!
But a mean-spirited God is the God we make in our fear’s image.
When fear grows, it places limits on us and everything that comes into our world; we act with judgment and anger against ourselves and those we touch, and we place ourselves in hell.
SEE ALSO: 6 Ways To Find Inner Peace And Balance
Love’s Awakening: Spiritual Moments in Everyday Life
When love directs our lives—when our hearts are in charge—we act with mercy. Our world widens and becomes infused with beauty and tenderness, and we place ourselves in heaven.
We know in our hearts that God is love. We know that unconditional love is the result of something very great moving through our world.
We recognize saints as those whose lives have become immersed in the energy of compassion and love for the whole universe as an expression of Universal Consciousness—whose minds and hearts function as one, communicating love through their words and actions. Unity means the unity of our hearts and minds. It is the process of allowing love to run our lives—the unity of the individual with the Supreme.
From this place, everything we come in contact with is an expression of God that has its place and its reason. It gives us the ability to distinguish between love and fear, and to choose love more often than we choose fear.
There comes a time in our lives when something inside wakes up. Sometimes it is sudden, but more often it is a gradually stretching, slow-moving blooming that happens in tiny increments. It is the part of us that needs to find itself, our innermost being striving toward the perfect balance which is true humanness.
We may begin spiritual pursuits such as prayer, yoga, meditation, reading, and journal writing. Along with these, though, if our spiritual growth is to be meaningful in our everyday lives, we need to become conscious of our moment-to-moment process. By “process” I mean our physical, mental, and emotional patterns, feelings, and reactions. By observing ourselves with mindfulness, we can eventually begin to choose what we want to be and use our spiritual practices as tools to assist us.
We cannot take for granted that if we meditate in such a way, if we chant so many mantras, if we hang out with spiritual people, if we go to church, temple, or mosque regularly, we will magically become what we want to be. Without applying some consciousness to moments of our everyday lives, without attention to our own unique set of internal beliefs and reactions, our spiritual practices only serve to keep us in one place. We may not go back, but we will not go forward.
This application of consciousness to the moment is Brahmacarya. There are many ways to practice this unity of mind and heart. One way is to begin removing the masks behind which we have hidden—perhaps since childhood.
Taking Off the Mask: Defeating Fear Through Unity
The removal of masks can be painful, for it means we must feel our feelings, acknowledge aspects of ourselves that are not ideal, and speak and live the truth as it is for us. As scary as this can be, it is a practice that brings us into alignment with ourselves and thus, closer to God. Maria Harris, in her book Dance of the Spirit, speaks about our masks:
“A constricting and damaging mask is the false expression we so often wear: of peaceful agreement when we are in raging disagreement; of pleasure when we are actually disgusted; of distaste when we are actually delighted; of humor when we are actually repelled; of understanding when we are actually baffled. Sometimes we are so out of touch with our own feelings that we have learned to produce what we know is the expected feeling. We are so intent on pleasing others that we learn to fake our reactions, and when we get really good at that, we learn to stop noticing the true ones.”
How often have we lied with our masks? When does the mask appear, and how? What does it feel like? We can give ourselves permission to continue wearing our masks when we need them. At the same time, we can begin to allow ourselves to feel and identify what really happens when the mask appears.
Meditation can help, for it develops the concentration necessary to observe ourselves with clear eyes, and it keeps our minds engaged in the truth, that we are perfect expressions of the Supreme Being, and there is no need to hide or lie.
Practicing the ethic of unity, we can begin, in small ways, to risk taking off our virtual makeup, to be fully present in the moment, and to choose a loving way of looking at ourselves and at life. The result is serenity—a deep, inner strength and peace, out of which the light of true joy can shine.
The most powerful way the practice of unity affects our lives is that it allows us to relax. In essence, it is faith, and it is surrender. It is the most powerful and empowering step we can take—to let go, lighten up, stop trying to control everything, and start choosing to believe that a higher power is taking care of us and knows what it’s doing.
Brahmacarya is not an external show of “holier than thou.” It asks us to try something more difficult. Continue your normal life and allow yourself to feel love in every situation.
When you eat, feel good about the food and enjoy its taste and texture, feel your gratitude and enjoyment, and know you are cared for. When you feel that tug in your heart that says you have made a mistake, just admit to it and say you are sorry.
When you talk to someone, relax, open up, and really listen to what they say. When you put on your shoes, just put on your shoes! If you like your shoes, so much the better!
These are ways unity of heart and mind are expressed.
This is how we demonstrate that we recognize everyone and everything as expressions of the Divine.
PARENTING WITH BRAHMACARYA
For parents, a child’s infancy is one of the easiest times to experience the feeling of unity. I remember the peaceful hours that went by, just watching my babies and being in love with them.
As children grow up and begin asserting their separateness from us, we are required to bring this choice of unity to another level. We teach our children to trust their hearts by living from our own.
Children require us to experience the pain of our separation more than anyone else. It can be confusing, trying to be a healthy parent with our own childhood wounds. If we cannot find the child in us and begin to heal those wounds, we repeat what happened with our own parents. We project the child in us onto our own children, and react to their growth with fear.
When we accept Brahmacarya as an important value, it becomes the foundation for many of our choices. If we believe there is an underlying unity to all things, and unity is God or Spirit, to which we surrender our lives, it changes us. We begin to question the assumptions our society makes about nearly everything. We begin to examine why we do or refrain from doing things. We begin to be concerned that, as far as possible, our choices reflect an awareness of the value we give peace and unity, versus turmoil and separation.
Nourishment: Love as an Essential Nutrient
Love is the basic survival requirement of every human being—even more so than food. This is a scientific, heavily researched fact. Love is the energy that makes everything work. In the absence of love, things go awry.
Our fear of the great mystery of the unseen has driven us to accept a materialistic notion of the universe as a collection of random particles of lifeless matter, and consciousness as little more than the result of chemical reactions in the brain. In separating from nature, we separate our minds from our hearts, and we begin to follow the dictates of the ego in its pursuit of limitless control. Thus emerged the industrial view of reality and its self-serving philosophy, which elevates greed to the status of a social virtue.
Each of us has work to do, a family to be a part of, and a community in which we are involved, in one way or another. Each of us, choosing to act in ways that affirm the value of life, of love, and of unity—no matter how insignificant or tentative these actions seem to us—has tremendous power.
The more people who make this choice, the more powerful the impact is on our world. We don’t need to risk our lives, careers, or families in the process. All we need to do is work on our intentions and follow our hearts. The rest will naturally unfold, bringing us and our world into harmony, into the experience of peace and unity.
AFFIRMATION FOR BRAHMACARYA
TODAY I CHOOSE TO BELIEVE IN LOVE. I RELEASE THE FEAR THAT KEEPS ME FROM FEELING SAFE, SUPPORTED, GUIDED, AND CARED FOR. I DWELL IN MY HEART AND SPIRIT. EVERYTHING IS AN EXPRESSION OF HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS.
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