I have a confession to make.... I am having a love affair with Edy's Fudge Tracks ice cream. Whenever she is in my freezer, I can't resist the urge to have her. Sometimes the urge is so strong, I have her more than once a day!
I am sad to say however, that Edy doesn't feel the same about me.
When I succumb to my sensual urges to taste the deliciousness of Edy's Fudge Tracks ice cream for three or four days in a row, I end up with a raging headache and a general feeling of crappiness.
Fortunately, I have a great therapist to help me through this. His name is Patanjali and he wrote the Yoga Sutras.
The fourth yama or "great vow" that we are asked to commit to is bramacharya.
Bramacharya was traditionally a recommendation to practice celibacy.
Two thousand years ago, yoga was an exclusive philosophy practiced by and taught only to men who were willing and able to renounce wordly pursuits to focus all of their energy on their search for enlightenment, which was said to be found through union with God. ie... yoga.
These renunciates practiced celibacy as a way to harness their powerful sexual energy and use it towards their spiritual pursuits.
Over many years, as the spiritual teaching and practice of yoga began to expand into the lives of "householders" (people with families and jobs, which also included women), the interpretation of bramacharya changed a bit. After all, without an intimate relationship with one's spouse, children could not be produced.
A modern day interpretation of bramacharya tells us to be moderate in our indulgence of pleasures of the senses. In other words, pay attention to and moderate your urges for things such as eating, drinking, shopping, working, thinking, sleeping or whatever-ing that you feel overly attached to or have a tendency to overindulge in.
Our attachment to sensual pleasures (including but not limited to sexual pleasures) can pull us off balance and away from our center. At our center, according to yoga philosophy, we find union with the Divine or God or our higher selves. (take your pick)
Getting back to my love affair with Edy, when I practice bramacharya or moderation with my ice cream lover, I stay balanced. I can have her every now and then with no ill effects. More importantly, I don't have to deprive myself of experiencing the pleasure in my senses when I indulge them every now and then.
If I renounce ice cream altogether, I run the risk of becoming overly attached to or obsessed by my unfullfilled desire for my sweet friend. Moderation in all things makes us less likely to tip the scale to the extreme which can knock us off balance.
Finding that healthy balance somewhere between over indulgence and complete abstinence is a practice that requires commitment, attention, and an inward focus.
When I am calm and centered, I can take a deep breath and decide whether my "craving" for Edy's Fudge Track ice cream is actually a "craving" for something else. Maybe I am craving love or just want to be listened to. Maybe I am lonely or tired or bored.
Unless I look at my "craving" for sensual pleasures honestly, I run the risk of trying to feed them with the wrong "food".
Maybe a hug from my husband, the sound of my mom's voice, a card game with my daughter, or a nice hot shower would hit the spot. Any of these indulgences would surely leave me feeling full in my heart.
If I still want a bowl of Edy's ice cream afterwards, I am much less likely to overindulge since I have already filled myself up with what I really needed.
Committing to bramacharya and the practice of yoga can help us to stay centered and connected to the spirit.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras