Living in the modern world has its pros and cons. When looking to improve my character through maintaining my integrity, I look towards the 8 limbs of yoga for guidance starting with the first two limbs: the yamas and the niyamas. They're sort of like a book of life instructions or a manual for attracting good omens if you embody these "Do's and Don't's" instead of being led astray.
To begin, yoga philosophy teaches that our foundation should consist of knowing what not to do before we continue with all of the other limbs.
Let's explore the first limb called the Yamas which include 5 virtuous rules of what not to do.
The first yama is Ahimsa which means non violence.
This yama always comes in handy when I feel like reacting instead of responding. In today's world where people engage in social media wars, family disputes, and the usual break ups, this yama reminds me that being the bigger person is not a burden, but in fact a blessing, because I get to keep my peace of mind by not engaging in drama.
It may seem as if, not looking for trouble is good enough. But I also feel that even if trouble comes looking for you, you can choose to walk away from an argument instead of adding fuel to the fire.
The very act of Ahimsa (Non violence) includes not harming others in words, deeds or actions, which means that there is no place for revenge because revenge seeks to intentionally harm another.
While the first thought that may come to mind is physical violence, Ahimsa includes verbal and emotional violence.
Hence, I like to believe that when I refrain myself from hurting another, (even through words) I'm attracting good karma and good vibes.
Look, I'm not saying that any of us are saints or that we should turn the other cheek if someone abuses us.
But what I am saying is that, for me, I'd prefer to remove myself from situations that are harmful instead of staying in it to fight back in a vicious cycle of winners and losers.
Finding a reason to care, seems much more powerful to me than finding a reason to hate or dislike another one of God's creations. I just won't put myself in a situation that I know won't bear good fruit.
The second yama is Satya which means truthfulness.
Honesty is the best policy. It is so true. Even when I feel afraid or embarrassed to admit a fault of mine, I'd rather come clean.
It clears my conscious to know that there's nothing a person can hold over my head, and it makes life flow easier since I don't have to remember my last lie to create a new lie and to continue the trail of dishonesty that can take a person to the point of no return.
Telling the truth is liberating.
Lying is heavy.
Telling the truth also feels like a weight is lifted off my shoulders which clears the path for things to manifest more quickly. You ever want something so badly, but wonder why it doesn't happen? Sometimes it's because of an energetic block.
The way to break those blocks is to face your fears head on so they don't keep you stagnant. Honesty allows you to look at yourself more clearly and to not live in denial.
Doesn't that sound better than living in secrecy behind a lie that you must always cover up?
It's impossible to be honest with others if I'm not honest with myself first, so I make sure that I'm able to look myself in the mirror and get real. Being truthful also allows me to know who I am, what I want, and where I'm going.
This creates the foundation for healthier relationships to flourish because I don't have ulterior motives, nor am I deceitful with the company I keep.
The third yama is Asteya which means non stealing.
I can't imagine the pain I would feel if someone stole my wallet, my identity, or even a job promotion. This is why I'd never do it to someone else.
What we put out into the universe has a strange way of coming back to us. It's all connected.
We might think that for the moment, we're gaining something by stealing but until it's done to you, you'll realize how awful it feels.
I never take credit for an idea that isn't mine, unless the person says, "Go ahead. Take it. It's yours," with a wink and a smile.
Receiving permission is quite the opposite then stealing someone's original idea in order for you to be recognized or promoted. It's like putting bad juju vibes into the atmosphere.
You might become successful and feel like the better person for being able to pull it off, but eventually it'll come back to haunt you. Why? Because stealing is the cousin of deceit which falls under the last yama, Satya, which means truthfulness. To steal means that you're lying because you took something that didn't belong to you.
No one can ever accuse me of this. I respect other people's boundaries and I expect them to respect mine.
If I had stolen from another, I'd be worried about getting caught. And if I wasn't worried, it would be an unavoidable drama that I'd have to face someday. What's the point of stealing jobs, money, resources, and even a romantic companion from another?
The repercussion is not worth the trouble when I can invest my energy into something much more wholesome and productive. So no, don't steal. There's plenty to go around for everyone.
The fourth yama is Brahmacharya which is right use of energy.
Some may relate this yama to being celibate, meaning that to discipline your focus while on the yogic path, you should refrain from sex. But it's much more than that. Of course, we all need affection, and I'm no different from the rest of humanity who craves human touch and connection.
But maintaining this yama keeps me mindful of who I invest my time and energy to.
This yama reminds me that there's certain relationships that deplete your energy, while others give you a boost! And they don't all have to be sexual or romantic.
Even a creative partnership or a business venture can be a waste of time if the compatibility is off, including other factors. When you're mindful of the energy you invest into people, you preserve your energy so that you have more energy left over to pour it into the right spaces.
In fact, when you pour your energy into the right spaces, your energy increases and things multiply.
I pay close attention to people who make me feel lethargic, sick or sad. Sometimes they can be as sweet as pie, but if something feels "off" in my gut, then I trust that. It doesn't have to mean that the person has ill intentions for me.
It can just mean that spending time with that person can take me off my true path. Not everything that is wrong for us is extreme. But why wait for it to become extreme? If it's not right, it's not right. And I've learned not to settle for mediocrity.
Having sex of course is important too. Whether it's a casual fling or a serious commitment, the exchanging of energies has to feel right on a soul level. I can't just allow my fleshly desires to get the best of me. Preserving my sexual energy, my creative energy, and basically ALL MY ENERGY, should be reserved for the best spaces. It allows me to enjoy my life on a much more soul-fulfilling level.
The fifth yama is Aparigraha which is non attachment.
I love this yama! By far, it's one of my favorites! It used to be a little challenging to not get disappointed by expecting to achieve some result. But the truth is that we can not control what other people choose to do. Just like someone can't control me; I can't control them. This means that it feels a 1,000 percent better to just allow myself to live in the flow and allow nature to have its course.
The same way that we are surprised whenever we meet a new "hello," is the same way we can often become surprised when we're left with that final "goodbye." Sometimes people move far away unexpectedly because of a job offer, a natural disaster, a marriage or a divorce.
People come and go; that's nothing new.
But when we're too attached to people, places and things, we have a hard time letting go when we're supposed to.
I'm a free spirit, so I've always embraced beginnings and endings pretty naturally. This quality of mine is definitely a stress reducer, and I wish to pass this wonderful yama on because it'll allow you to feel as free as a butterfly.
Even she has to learn to release the cocoon in order to fly.