A YEAR IN YAMAS / AHIMSA #1

So… happy new year(s)! We’ve taken one and half trips around the sun since my last blog post, and certainly a lot has changed. Personally, regionally, and globally, I’ve felt a flood of ups (i.e. finishing graduate school, deepening my yoga practices, studying with some iconic teachers) and downs (i.e. 45 getting elected, and everything that followed). But isn’t that the usual tide of life? Change is the only constant, and boy, change we got last year. So how does one ground herself in an increasingly confusing, derailing, and frustrating climate (personally, regionally, and globally)? For me, getting back to basics, recommitting to vitalizing habits, and buckling down on important precepts and observances — the yamas and niyamas — are key.

In 2015, I practiced each of the yamas and niyamas intensively for one month at a time (leaving out January and December for full birthday and holiday merriment). This year I decided to only focus on the yamas, or five behavioral restraints of yoga philosophy, which are:

  • Ahimsa: nonviolence
  • Satya: truthfulness
  • Asteya: non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya: conservation of energy
  • Aparigraha: non-hoarding

As you might notice, the yamas somewhat parallel the Ten Commandments in Christianity and the Five Precepts in Buddhism. There’s a reason — they are relatively, decent, simple, and universal decrees to follow. “Don’t kill anyone.” Check. “Don’t lie.” Okay. “Don’t steal.” Not today so far! No-brainers, right? Easy they may sound, but there are many layers and ways to interpret the yamas (and even more, the niyamas), which is why I’m dedicating not one but TWO months to each of these moral codes in 2018, just to be thorough. I’m starting with ahimsa in January, ending with aparigraha in May, then taking June to process and practice all five the best I can. I’ll start it all over in August and (hopefully) wrap up December as a kinder, more truthful, less thieving, more conservative, and less attached person. Here it goes…

I am giving myself two specific and attainable directives to which to adhere each month. One is an obvious and measurable goal — something for which I can be held accountable. The other is more internal and contemplative — something that maybe only I know if I’m DOING IT. So, to practice ahimsa intensively for the next month, I will:

  • Eat a vegan diet. I do NOT believe that being a vegan automatically makes one a non-violent person. (We’ve all come across at least one pompous, condescending, and hypocritical vegan before). But even the most avid carnivores cannot deny the amount of violence that surrounds our animal farming processes and industry. I’m already a pescetarian and have flirted with both vegetarianism and veganism before, so not a giant stretch. But my hope is that a month sans cheese, eggs, and hidden animal products will make me think even more about how my food lives, dies, and is treated, and how my choices effect my body, the bodies on our plates, and our collective environmental body.
  • Not say anything at all (if I can’t say anything nice, that is). The old rule never gets old. I am always surprised and ashamed when I catch myself saying something unkind about someone, whether they be a friend, acquaintance, or stranger, out loud, in the strictest of confidence, or just in my head. Even if it’s “the truth” — a common excuse — it’s not worth it if it’s obviously or potentially hurtful (there’s a reason non-violence comes before non-lying). EVEN IF what I want to say is about a certain autocratic, pompous, Cheeto covered psychopath who is a pathetic excuse for a human being, much less a world leader — you won’t hear it from me (starting now).

They say it takes thirty days to make (or break) a habit, so… piece of (eggless and dairy free) cake, right? We shall see. Sure, I’ll make a mistake, beat myself up over it, or make an excuse. Then I’ll embrace my humanity, forgive myself, and move on, because like everything, this a practice, not perfect. With that said, I give my Brownie Scout’s honor to try my damndest and stick to the plan with all my might. There’s power in numbers, so if you’d like to join my Year in Yamas or design your own, feel free to leave a comment, shoot me an email, or just freaking DO IT. Let’s define 2018 not by what we hate, fear, or resist, but what fuels us and gives us hope for a better tomorrow. Cheers!

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