“All things in moderation.”
As a child, teenager, and even a young woman in my twenties, my dad drove me insane with his pearls of wisdom. Most likely because the man knew what he was talking about.
Around the time I was twenty-four, fresh out of an abusive marriage and living in my father’s house until I found my feet again, I stopped rolling my eyes and listened to him. At age forty-one with a teenager in the house (the “King of THE Eye-Roll”, as my first born has named himself), more and more, I’ve been taking those pearls my father dropped on me throughout my life and stringing them into a necklace to wear. More often than not, my father’s wisdom comes into play in my adult life.
Christians follow the Ten Commandments; Yogis follow the Yamas and Niyamas. Which brings us to this week’s spiritual Sadhana, Brahmacharaya: moderation.
Brahmacharaya used to be defined as celibacy.
Whoa! Remove your mouse from that “X” that’s going to close out this webpage, relax, and give me a second. Before you assume I’m going to tell you to go without sex, keep reading, and chill for a moment.
Brahmacharaya used to be defined as celibacy. Used to, kiddos, not currently. Years and years ago, those who took the yogic path figured their energy could be put to better use if they weren’t reproducing. In today’s yogic world, Brahmacharaya is defined as moderation in all things. Perhaps you’ll take it easy on plans out with friends, and instead option to take a peaceful night at home. Maybe if you do go out with friends, you’re going to keep it at one glass of wine instead of two (or four, not that I know anyone with pink hair and tattoos who teaches creative writing at the local community college who does that when she’s out with friends and has the guarantee of someone else driving her home at the end of the evening). Maybe you take a few minutes to consider if you really need that new pair of heels that you can only wear with one outfit. Or you only eat half the hummingbird cake and take the other half home to enjoy the next day (again, it’s not like I know anyone who can inhale a piece of hummingbird cake after eating grilled cheese and tomato soup with tortellini, making Joey from Friends look like an amateur in food consumption when she gets within a mile of that cake).
In my life outside the mat, I’ve over done it, more often than not, in all things. White chocolate is a huge weakness of mine, along with winter white cosmos, Gaja Sito Moresco wine, black forest cake, lasagna, bread, cigars while playing poker, and this fantastic fifty year port my friend’s father gave me as a gift for officiating his daughter’s wedding.
But with age comes a certain type of wisdom. I still enjoy the wine, the deserts, the unbelievable port, yet I’ve found that there’s a beauty in missing those people I love, foods I love, drinks I love, experiences I enjoy. As much as I enjoy the experience of all of the above, there’s this incredible feeling of returning to the experiences I deeply love after time away from it, whether it’s that first bite of black forest cake, or hugging a dear friend after not having had the chance to see them for quite some time. I’ve found more joy in those experiences when they aren’t fully present and accessible.
On my mat, I’ve learned the hard way that while finally getting a posture I’ve struggled with brings a rush of joy, going at it time after time is only going to harm my next practice. If I’ve over done it on working on handstands, the next practice I take is going to be impacted by my sore shoulders and legs. “When you feel sensation, stop,” is a phrase I hear Laura Beth, one of my favorite instructors, say when guiding us through practice. That means when my shoulders start announcing their fatigue when I’m practicing my handstands, I stop. If I plan on taking more than one practice, and my right knee, the one that’s had more sports related injuries than any other part of my body, starts hurting, I ask myself if I can honestly say I’ll go gentle with the next practice. If the answer is no, then I call it a day and hit the showers. Then I check in with my body the next day, and how my body feels determines what type of practice I’ll take the next day.
To celebrate Brahmacharya this week, I’ll be taking things in moderation, seeing how I feel in each moment, and enjoying things in small measure. We exercise Brahmacharya in an effort to better serve ourselves and others, to reserve our energy for more meaningful things.