Tag Archive: niyamas

Disobedience and Isvara Pranadhana

MoveOn just posted this Howard Zinn quote on Facebook:  “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

It spoke my mind and resonated with what I wrote about yesterday with regard to how to be open to yoga’s invitation to practice humility without ceding power to authoritarian structures.   This quote is spurring me to think aboutPatanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga, and particularly the niyama (observance) of ishvara pranadhana (surrender).  I  don’t see why a true, radical yogini could not simultaneously surrender to the mysterious outrageousness of being while still being appropriately disobedient to authoritarian structure.  But maybe that is because I was raised a Quaker; there’s quite a bit of overlap between some of the tantric yoga principles and the teachings of Quakers.

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Found Exhortation

A number of years ago I had a conversation with a cherished friend and co-worker who is no longer in this body. I was explaining to her the yoga practice of samtosha (contentment), which is one of the five niyamas that make up the second limb of the eight-limbed path of yoga set forth in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. My friend said it felt like a great revelation to think of contentment as a practice. She had thought of it as a state you were either lucky enough to have — or not.

Many states or characteristics or attitudes that we tend to think of as only being innate characteristics or good fortune can be cultivated.

Wearing an exhortation on a t-shirt might not necessarily be my style, but I do agree kindness is worthy of cultivation when it does not happen spontaneously.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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Sauca (Another Perspective)

My friend and Willow Street colleague Natalie Miller taught a lovely class on Monday night, using sauca as her theme.  She said that she had recently read a book that described the yamas as things we do to be better persons, but that the niyamas were precepts for our spiritual practice to lead us better on the path.  In that sense, she suggested, sauca is about clarity or purity of intention.

What I love about contemplating and practicing with these concepts is that they are so pregnant with meaning; they have so much to offer wherever we are in our life and on our individual path of spirit exploration.  The more we contemplate and visit and practice and discuss, the more we will discover both about the meaning of the concept and about ourselves.

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“Holiday Madness” (and the Yamas and Niyamas of Patanjali)

When I googled (that should not be a verb) “holiday madness”  this morning, I got one million three hundred thousand hits.  Yikes!  Most relevant websites are about surviving shopping, over-eating, family, and travel.  Madness in such a situation is a choice.  We can choose what to consume, how much, when, and with whom.  It is a choice whether “celebration” requires consumption beyond what our financial, physical, and emotional means permit.

The yamas and niyamas as revealed by Patanjali provide beautiful structure for thinking about the holidays.

Yamas:

Ahimsa–non-harming.  Don’t consume more than is harmful to yourself, those who have created what you are consuming, and the earth.

Satya — truthfulness.  Be honest with yourself about what is right for you to celebrate and observe and what brings meaning to you as a holiday celebration.

Asteya — non-stealing.  Consuming beyond your means, especially financially, is a form of stealing (look at what generated the recession).

Brahmacharya — moderation (aligning with Brahma).  Enjoy the offerings of the earth in a way that uplifts rather than sickens or detracts from spirit and self.

Aparigraha — non-greediness; non-covetousness.  Enjoy what you have without coveting or trying in a detrimental way to have what others have and you do not.

Niyamas

Sauca — cleanliness, purity.  Consume in a way that is healthy for yourself and the planet, that does not create illness, refuse, and waste.

Samtosha — contentment.  Wherever you are, whatever you have, whatever is going on in your work and family life, think of that for which you are grateful, that which brings you happiness, and focus on what you have.  Contentment is a practice.

Tapas — fire, ardor.  Be on fire to practice, to shift, to make this a life-fulfilling year of generosity and compassion.

Svadyaya — study of text, self-study.  Take the holidays as an opportunity to deepen your understanding of yourself, society, and your spiritual beliefs and how they interrelate.

Ishvara pranadhana — surrender, recognition of the spirit.  Let go a little.  Surrender to a sense of fullness.  Allow the abundance and recognize it as a wondrous gift. Remember the word “holiday” is really two words:  “holy day.” Make this time holy, whether or not you observe a particular religious tradition at this time of year or any other.

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