By Aanandi Ross
“Just Don’t,” our February Teachings from Swami Nirmalananda and Rukmini Abbruzzi, inspires me to rededicate myself to practicing yoga’s yamas — uplifting lifestyle practices. I feel the richness of these five practices. They offer huge possibilities for me; for every human being. Some have been more up front in my life at different times. Some have evolved through different stages. What shall I return to first?
Ahimsa, first on the list, means do no harm to others. I think of the many spiders I’ve encountered in my life. I’ve slipped a cup over them, slid a card underneath and carried it all out the door. It’s never really bothered me too much, except for one time when there was a very big spider, large and thick. It stopped me right in my tracks. For a moment I stood in the middle of the kitchen, before remembering to breathe.
Finding my inner warrior, I mustered up the courage to help him or her get back outside. It felt good to have helped the spider. Of course, I continue to work on my aggressive impulses when they arise. My driving habits, however, still offer me something to work on. Sometimes I still speed, which could be harmful. Maybe after publicly disclosing this, I won’t anymore.
Practicing satya requires that you speak only truth. I find speaking only truth so much easier. Have you noticed this? It is a practice, and it takes practice. Yet it is freeing as it simplifies life. The words flow out so much more easily, even when it’s challenging to tell a truth. It feels “right” in my gut.
Asteya means don’t steal. The article reminded me that I caught myself stealing a while back. At the dentist’s tea table, I had just poured myself a cup of spice tea when I saw another choice — an organic, chocolate mint tea — a flavor I had not seen before. Oh, how delightful to try later, I thought. It is not my habit to take extra free goodies. Doing so on this occasion obviously bothered me on some level because I remembered the incident. Next time I go to the dentist, I will bring a teabag to leave there. It’s in my calendar.
Regarding brahmacharya, celibacy, I recall a time in my early twenties when this practice was in the forefront of my life. I had already discovered that using the vehicle of a persona with a sexual flair was only causing pain and suffering. I cut my hair short and gained more than a few pounds. I had a yearning to know who I was beneath and beyond the needs and identities entangled in sexuality. A quote from Swamiji comes to mind, ”Work with your strengths and work on your weaknesses.”
Currently, I’m enjoying the practice of aparigraha, no more greediness. With a shift in my financial situation, I am practicing much more earnestly restraining myself from “grasping for things I don’t need.” It feels wonderful, putting things in perspective, helping me to re-organize my life.
Practicing yoga’s yamas, offers so much. They give you great ways to uplift yourself and keep your mind from pulling you out of Consciousness. In every moment there is choice. The yamas make this very clear. Practice the yamas. Just do.