A few years ago, I had this “friend.”
We enjoyed spending time together in lots of ways, but under the cover of night and in the throes of various flesh-related pleasures were the most popular.
But, there was no skin in the game. No guts. And, it was—for the most part—a secret.
Professionally and personally, these rendezvous could have been pretty damaging for both of us. Alas, they were fun and sexy and they served a purpose—or so I thought at the time.
A girl I worked with knew about this affair of sorts and, one day, in the midst of a conversation in which she shared a number of concerns, she said something to me that I will never forget: “Use your power for good, Saucey.”
This year, I went through yoga teacher training, and among other areas of study, were the yamas and the niyamas. We can think of these as the ethical principles of yoga. Codes of conduct that remind us of the truth of who we are. They offer us the ability to realign with our innate goodness at any point.
Seated in a circle amongst my 14 fellow teacher trainees on a Wednesday night, we discussed brahmacharya—the yogic practice of non-excess.
With this prompting, I thought of that conversation from a handful of years ago (for the hundred-thousandth time since) and how it shed light on the nature of this particular yama. In our text, I noted a passage that read: “The practice of brahmacharya has much more to do with being efficient with our energy…and channeling our thoughts, desires, and actions toward realizing the highest truths.”
Most commonly translated as “celibacy,” ironic and fitting as my example above is, brahmacharya is less about abstaining from the aforementioned activities than a concept of mindfulness around the energy you hold sacred. It means guarding the exchange of this energy with awareness and intention. It’s being cognizant of this “highest good,” and not indulging in, or giving away, more than what’s needed to stand in that innate goodness.
If there’s anything to abstain from, it is anything that detracts from my feeling of whole—anything less than divine. Aside from inappropriate and empty relationships, drinking too many malted milkshakes also makes me feel rather un-divine. Well, eventually.
While sex and sugar are the more obvious and taboo of my own divine undoings and overindulgences of choice over the course of history, so is the creation of states of stress and “busy”—all unnecessary in my “walk with God,” as they say. When I stretch too thin, say “yes” more often than I say “no,” and choose to operate from chaos, I am also choosing to expend energy in excess.
And that energy shit is sacred, remember?
There are a myriad of sneaky ways that we find ourselves out of alignment with brahmacharya. Clever, this whole “excess” thing can be as it relates to our day-to-day lives.
If we ask, “What is not serving my highest Self?,” then perhaps an honest look in the mirror has the potential to reveal a number of ways we engage with more than we truly need on the path to our most luminous way of being.
Obvious points of inquiry like, “How many glasses of wine have you had?” are important places to pause, of course. But so are more cunning indulgences like, “How much green juices have you splurged on? Are you taking another vinyasa in yoga class when your body is really asking you for a few breaths of rest?”
It is possible to overdo it on even the woo-woo stuff.
But like, really, how many times have you checked Instagram today?
Brahmacharya tells us that when the moment of satiation occurs, we can cultivate a sense of satisfaction once we’ve recognized a state of “enough” has been reached. It tells us to know that “enough” is always and immediately within our grasp. It tells us to use our powers for good.
And…sometimes, I could still go for a milkshake.
Author: Stef Osofsky
Editor: Leah Sugerman
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