As a reminder, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Damn good, I might add. Gentle Reader, I offer my manifold apologies for being away from my blog for so long and for undoubtedly leaving you in an incurable state of suspense about the next yama on our list. Well, I’m kicking myself for undertaking this project of blogging about the 8 limbs of yoga because I’m finding that there are all these other things I’d also like to blog about (like how irate last week’s NY Times magazine cover story made me–if ONLY teaching was as simply as standing still when you give instructions, if only).
But a promise is a promise. What I might do is break things up a bit. Blog about a limb of yoga and then blog about something else.
Today I’m combining asteya and aparigraha, two yamas that are deeply intertwined (much like satya and ahimsa). Asteya is essentially non-stealing or restraint from taking what isn’t yours. My teachers in India reminded us that this applies to physical things as well as mental things. We don’t want to try to steal someone else’s happiness and we want to respect where others are coming from.
Similarly, aparigraha is restraint from wanting or lack of greed. Living a minimalist lifestyle can help cultivate aparigraha. Again, my teachers in India reminded us that we should be mindful of what is truly useful to us (literally and figuratively) and discard the rest. With possessions, this seems obvious. Why, no, now that I think of it, I don’t actually need both SUVs. With thoughts and emotions, this seems much less obvious. Our self-doubt doesn’t really serve us, so why do we let it linger? Our tacit judgment of those around us does little to deepen our spiritual practice, so why do we continue to judge? (I know for me judging others makes me feel “safe”–of course, it’s a false sense of safety, but there it is nevertheless. Same holds true of the self-doubt. It provides safety because I can trust that it will always be there.)
Again, bearing witness to what goes on in our head is the key here. When we see those thoughts or beliefs that hinder us on the path, we must let them go and unburden ourselves. How do we do this? I don’t really know. Sometimes, I talk to myself as if I’m talking myself out of a fitful tree. Writing helps, too. And, interestingly, sometimes reading saves me. If I read something of a spiritual or mental health bent, the words on the page will give me pause and I’ll remind myself, “Oh, yes, asteya and aparigraha–wanting what others have or wanting way beyond my needs isn’t going to serve me.” And somehow, deep inside me, I trust that.