Aparigraha – non grasping

When I write about the yamas and niyamas I always end up thinking that they make so much sense it is strange that we ever need to think about following them. Yet when I find myself in a situation where I’m not sure what to do they help to define everything I need to find a solution. Sometimes simple is just what you need and often when you are in the middle of something you can’t see the obvious path out.

Aparigraha, non grasping relates to what we need in life, what we have and what we want. My nine year old son often tells me that he “needs” the latest toy on the market and yet when he eventually gets it he is only briefly content before he fixes his sights on something else which he just as desperately “needs”.  I catch myself in the same thought pattern, when I get this or that everything will be better  there is always a new this or that to crave however and the satisfaction is short lived when these things are achieved.

Aparigraha doesn’t only apply to material items, it can be anything in life – a job, a relationship, a house, a friend, a car. It also doesn’t only apply to things we want but also things we already have. Clinging to situations, belongings, relationships, comfort zones can prevent us from moving on in our lives. Developing the ability to recognise this and let go when the time is right can bring great progress, growth, and freedom.

A great way to practice aparigraha is to get rid of some of your collected stuff – clean out the cupboards and donate some clothes or belongings to the op shop. Somehow doing this with material possessions always seems to make me feel like I’ve let go of some other “stuff” both mentally and emotionally. Generosity is the opposite of grasping and clinging so take every opportunity that comes your way to share your belongings, your time and your energy.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

Asteya

Asteya is the third yama and translates as non stealing. This, like sattya – honesty, is a widely known and fairly obvious moral guideline. Most of us are told from a very young age that stealing is wrong, if you’ve ever had anything stolen from you I’m sure you know that terrible feeling it leaves you with.

As with all of the yamas and niyamas for me asteya can be taken further than its literal translation. I like to think of asteya as not only not stealing but honouring the source of everything we have. This adds an element of gratitude to asteya, not just non stealing in the literal sense but also not taking for granted what we are freely given. Saying thank you to others and the world around us for everything we have.

When you are next eating food take some time to reflect on and offer gratitude to the source of that food. The plant or animal that it came from, the people who have transported or prepared it for you. Let this additional awareness of the source enable you to enjoy the taste, texture and nourishment the food offers.

Next time you are reading a book, article or blog post (like mine!) take some time to acknowledge the work that has gone into giving you that information. Not just the author but their teachers and the teachers who came before them.

When you next admire a sunset or a flower or an other wonder of nature thank the planet, the sun, the earth for enabling this beauty to be available for you to enjoy.

There are countless ways to practice asteya every day, they say you never know what you’ve got ’til its gone and this is very true. Last week my washing machine broke down and has had to be taken away into the workshop for repairs. This kind of event can really make you appreciate the many things we have in our life which make it easier. Having to wash clothes at the laundromat and work around the availability of transport, time and other things has made me appreciate just how much having a washing machine at home makes my life easier. Lessons in asteya from the universe!

With gratitude for the internet and my readers and the wonders of modern technology which allow me to send this to them.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Sattya, truth

The second yama is sattya – honesty and authenticity. We’ve all heard from a very young age that lying is wrong, we need to own up to our wrongdoings and admit the truth. Most religions and philosophies have truthfulness as a part of their teachings and practices. Despite the fact that this is widely known we are often surrounded by false or misleading information, advertising tries to convince us that we need this or that, politicians mince their words and make and break promises. We and others present a face to the world that is often censored or altered to suit the people we are with. While this is not strictly speaking being dishonest and it is sometimes necessary in order to get through our days it is good to be aware of the fact that you are doing so when it happens.

Sattya goes beyond this layer of truth to a wider truth, being honest with ourselves about who we are, what we can achieve, where we are heading and our motivations for that path. Authenticity is a wonderful word to express sattya, in our dealings with ourselves and others being authentic, showing and sharing our own truth with the world is a wonderful thing.

Sattya is very closely linked to ahimsa, by deceiving ourselves or others we are not practicing kindness but doing harm. Just as we may need to do some harm to find the kindest path to practice ahimsa, sometime we may need to balance our telling of the truth to practice sattya. What we refer to as “white lies”, or not telling the whole truth can sometimes be the kindest thing to do. I am sure you can think of times when you have been shocked or hurt by someone telling their version of the truth in a harsh or unthoughtful way. This is where the saying “The truth hurts” comes from. Sattya should never hurt, the truth feels right, sits well with both the giver and receiver of the truth and the ultimate truth is what we are all seeking on our journeys.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

Ahimsa, the Master Yama

Ahimsa has been translated in many ways, the most common I have come across is non-violence or non-harm. Himsa means “injustice” or “cruelty” and the addition of an “a” shifts its meaning to the opposite. I prefer to keep my wording positive so prefer to think of ahimsa and kindness, nurturing and caring.

As with all of the yamas and niyamas, ahimsa applies to ourselves, our relationships with others and our connection to the earth. It is all encompassing. Our actions, words and deeds have potential to do great harm or good so giving some thought before we speak or act can make all the difference.

For yourself, ahimsa relates to looking after your body by practicing asana or other exercise that you enjoy, eating well and not overdoing anything. During your yoga asana practice ahimsa is very important, in a forward bend you might be tempted to pull yourself further than feels right because the person next to you can fold much deeper into the pose than you can. By doing so you risk injuring yourself which goes against ahimsa, loosing the yoga from your practice. As a teacher I encourage all of my students to feel their own body in each pose, to find the right place and never to push or force beyond that. That is yoga, not forcing yourself into a certain shape or stretching until your whole body is in agony. It also relates to looking after your mind, noticing your thoughts and letting go of any which are self critical. Becoming aware of your emotions and nurturing and feeding those that do the same for you while letting go of any which are no longer serving you.

Ahimsa in our relationships with others can be from those we love to complete strangers. Treating everyone you encounter with kindness. Pausing before you speak or act to assess how your words or deeds will come across and if they could be misunderstood by anyone. I am constantly reminding my three children of this, when they argue and we go back over the conversation leading up to the argument most of the time it began with misinterpretation or someone not thinking before they spoke. If everyone did this what a difference it would make!

The world around us gives us support, sunlight, food and everything we need. We can repay the favour by looking after the world, recycling, researching the products we purchase and leaning towards sustainable and environmentally friendly companies. Spending time in nature and adopting a sense of gratitude for all that is offered.

It is not always easy to practice ahimsa, sometimes we need to choose the lesser of two harmful actions. Perhaps we need to defend ourselves and in doing so cause harm to others. We need to eat and in doing so plants or animals are harmed. Some choose a vegetarian diet to lower this aspect but if going without meat causes harm to yourself perhaps just cutting down or purchasing free range meat is a better option for you right now.

Conflict can also arise between ahimsa and the other yamas and niyamas or we might not be able to see which direction would cause the least harm. If ever you feel this way a simple meditation can help, just close your eyes, connect with your breath and ask the question of yourself in your mind. “Which path should I take?” Sit for 5-10 minutes with an open mind. Perhaps when you finish you will feel a solution has arisen, if not just give it time and space and something will come up.

A nice summary of the meaning of ahimsa comes from T.K.V. Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga. “In every situation we should adopt a considered attitude. That is the meaning of ahimsa.” As the master yama, ahimsa is the ultimate fall back position for when you don’t know what to do. You can always come back to the very simple question – what is the kindest path?

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx