Le troisième Yama : Asteya, ne pas voler

Ne pas voler, ne pas prendre ce qui ne nous appartient pas ou ce qui ne nous a pas été donné. La Loi karmique de donner et de recevoir y est intimement lié, dans le sens où tout est ou devrait être un échange. Cela ne signifie cependant pas que nous devons nous attendre à recevoir lorsque l’on donne. Plutôt, nous devons être conscient que lorsque nous recevons, nous devrions également donner.

Bien sûr, lorsque nous pensons à ne pas voler, notre première pensée se dirige vers les objets physiques. Par contre, ne pas prendre ce qui ne nous a pas été donné a une signification beaucoup plus vaste. Par exemple, cela peut également signifier de ne pas s’emparer du temps d’une autre personne sans que celle-ci soit d’accord. Dans la pratique du yoga, cela peut vouloir dire que les professeurs devraient encourager les étudiants à payer leurs redevances.

Bref, il s’agit d’une chaîne qui peut être sans fin. Une amie m’a expliqué un jour, lorsque je m’excusais de ne pas avoir été là pour elle dans une période difficile de sa vie alors qu’elle avait été si présente dans la mienne, “je ne suis pas inquiètes, je sais que tu redonneras à quelqu’un d’autre éventuellement”. L’expression anglophone pourtant souvent utilisée négativement exprime très bien cette notion : “what goes around, comes around”.

Cela dit, dans un esprit de ne pas prendre ce qui ne nous appartient pas, de ne pas voler, nous pouvons penser à appliquer ce concept dans nos paroles, c’est-à-dire en rendant ce qui est dû aux personnes de qui nous avons appris, en ne prenant pas les idées des autres sans leur rendre hommage. Et ici, dans le respect de ce Yama, je profite donc de cette opportunité pour remercier mes professeurs Guy Tardif et Devinder Kaur de leurs enseignements précieux que je continue de développer.

Dans le respect de ce concept, ce Yama, en nous abstenant de voler ou de prendre ce qui ne nous appartient pas, nous continuons de nous diriger lentement vers une vie plus heureuse. Prenez donc un moment pour remercier les gens autour de vous qui vous donnent continuellement sans redemander rien en retour. Voyez vous aussi où vous faites une différence dans la vie des gens que vous aimez. Soyez généreux, offrez votre aide sans chercher à recevoir en retour.

Je vous souhaite à tous et à toutes de  Joyeuses Fêtes, remplies d’amour, de paix et de bonheur. Que ce temps de repos soit partagé avec famille et ami(e)s en toute quiétude. I wish you all Happy Holidays filled with love, peace and happiness. I hope that this time will be shared with family and friends in all quietude. Namaste.


The second Yama: Satya or non-lying

You will have noticed by now that the yamas, when translated to English, are negations. The reason for this is that they are meant to be things we will refrain from doing (restraints). The second Yama is named Satya which is translated to non-lying, meaning to be honest with yourself as with others. However, keeping in mind the first Yama, this means to speak the truth as long as it is not in the intention of being hurtful to others…

For me, being true to yourself is at the center of this Yama. We all accept too much crap, for far too long. Being honest to yourself means acknowledging how you feel and respecting that. Sometimes it may also mean that you have to let go of certain relationships in order to bring balance back to your life as you understand that these no longer serve you.

Many will challenge and place obstacles in your way, but if you dedicate yourself to being truthful, these won’t slow you down for long. Sometimes it can be hard to pursue as you are brought back to memories of the past, by the presence of others or by becoming aware of an event, but it doesn’t change the fact that this remains the past. Life is now, the reality is in the present, going back will only delay you moving forward.

Knowing the path you have to take is far much easier than walking it. By being true to yourself and to others, you invite people in your life who will also bring these qualities in their relationship with you. And once these qualities start pouring into your life, you will feel rewarded and grateful for those around you and for the perseverance you have demonstrated in being true to yourself.

So today, I am grateful for the path I have been walking as it has led me to meet amazing people. True friends also continue to fill my life with love and friendship on this journey. Be true to yourself to end this suffering. Look around you and see the few or many who really appreciate you for who you are. Namaste.

The first Yama: Ahimsa or the path to non-violence

As I mentioned in my previous post, The Yamas – Introduction, there are five yamas. The first one is named Ahimsa which can be translated to non-violence. However, as I will try to convey to you here, it means so much more.

Ahimsa refers to non-violence but also to non-harming as well as compassion for all things and people. In everyday life this can be applied by respecting your body through the food you ingest, by limiting your aggressive and demeaning behavior towards others (and yourself), and/or by having the emotional strength to try and alleviate the suffering of others.

In the Yoga practice, as a teacher it may mean to create a safe place for students to learn and practice, approaching students with compassion and understanding. And then, for students, it may mean respecting your body and its limits, not hurting yourself. Then for some, this principle can be applied to food, whereas vegetarianism stems from this yama, vegetarians choosing not to eat meat as they consider the killing of animals to be a from of violence.

Unfortunately, violence is so commonly accepted as a normal form of interaction in our society that many of us don’t even realise the extent to which it has overtaken us. Our thoughts and our actions towards one and other reflect the toxicity of violence in our lives. It has become so engrained in our behavior that we do not even notice how we are treating each other. Some will say that we have done what was necessary to adapt, but I beg to differ. I think that this violence is slowly killing us, destroying our relationships, turning us into indifferent insensitive beings. But it doesn’t have to be this way…

I have mentioned thoughts, actions and behaviors. This is exactly how violence is triggered: as the thought emerges, the action is taken and then repeated creating and reinforcing this pattern. But as we have explored the subject before, what we practice grows stronger. Not only do we have the choice, we have the ability to completely change our behavior. Granted, it takes time and perseverance to modify such strong patterns, but by restraining ourselves little by little from violent behavior, actions and thoughts, it is possible.

So today, right now, stop and take a good long look at your life. Do not judge yourself only become aware of what is. Start with little changes, notice as thought patterns emerge and mindfully decide to no longer partake in any forms of violence against yourself and others, whether through words, thoughts or actions. This is the first step, the base on which you can build a new life, whatever your past has seen. Forgive. Forget. Love again. Embrace life. Om Shanti.

The Yamas – introduction

This Fall, I have had the chance to continue teaching yoga at work with an amazing person, my friend and colleague Joanna. We’ve taken our dear students through three of the yamas so far, at the rate of one per month. The yamas, per Patanjali’s sutras, consist in the first of the eight-limbed path to happiness. There are five yamas and they can be presented as a set of restraints or code of conduct (click to read previous posts on the subject: “To strive to live by” and “Life’s Code of Conduct”)

Why this is so interesting to me, I don’t know. Perhaps because I truly believe that by making small changes in our everyday life and behaviors can we take bigger steps towards living a fuller, happier life? Maybe. But why do we need a code of conduct, or do we?

For as long as humans have existed, suffering has thrived. It has been so, it seems, mostly because we remain insatiated, always wanting more, thinking that the next best thing will make us happy. In reality, we are often the cause of our own suffering through the actions we take and the everyday decisions we make. Patanjali’s yamas are there to help us make better choices along the way so that we may lead a happier life.

And so, as simple as they may seem, these five yamas can greatly influence the outcome of our lives. The next few posts will be a dedicated reflection on each of these: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (non-lying), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (honouring yourself), and Aparigraha (non-coveting).

I invite you to share your point of view and your opinion on this subject. However, before going any further, one principle will need to be kept in mind: “self-observation without criticism” as Swami Kripalu often reminded his students. As we look inward, it can be hard to accept what we see, and it often takes a lot of courage to do so. But, only by knowing where we stand can we move forward. Namaste.

Life’s Code of conduct

The central point of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, composed around 200 CE, is the eight-limbed path, most commonly known as Ashtanga Yoga. The first “limb” is Yama or as I understand it, the Code of conduct. I find it an interesting concept as it relates to decision-making suggesting a moral foundation for the everyday life.

I am not a religious person, but I think that we’ve somehow lost this conception of the good or bad. I know that many people around me and in the world still practice religion but even then, I wonder if the values are still intact. Everything is so easily and readily accessible that it seems we have no more boundaries: we can do anything, we can have it all. Unfortunately, I think that this vastness of choice is one of the reasons why many of us are so unhappy.

Many share family values and are raised accordingly to certain principles, but today, as an adult, what are the rules you live by? What is your life’s Code of conduct? I was reading a blog named “Peace, Love and Agave Nectar” the other day and stumbled upon her Rules I (Try to) Live By. It inspired me and I found myself asking if I had any such rules… Kind of, but no so much, not written down at least.

Then, starting to read Mark Stephen’s book “Teaching Yoga”, I stumbled upon Patanjali’s Yamas, yet again, and thought that these would be a good start to my introspection. Defined as “principles of ethical behavior one should follow in everyday life, in our relationship with others and with ourselves”, here are the five Yamas:

1. Ahimsa ~ often interpreted as non-violence, Ahimsa is about respecting one’s own body and extending this respect to all other beings in the world. We can think of eating properly, exercising, being compassionate and understanding. In teaching yoga, it is interpreted as providing guidance that do not hurt or injure students or ourselves.

2. Satya ~ being honest with ourselves and others. “Truth should be told when agreeable, should be said agreeably, and truth should not be said that does harm; however, never lie to give pleasure”. It is always difficult to hear the truth, but if it is told without malicious intent, I think that even if it is not pleasant, it will eventually be understood.

3. Asteya ~ the essence of asteya, “not stealing”, is freeing oneself from the desire to have something that one has not earned or paid for. For yoga teachers this can also be interpreted as creating ways for students to experience the abundance in their practice. It does not mean however that we deserve something or other.

4. Brahmacharya ~ honor yourself and others in intimate relationships. This Yama was often though of “a life of celibacy, religious study and self-restraint” but it is now typically given the loose interpretation as the “right use of energy”. I find it speaks to respect and our value as human beings.

5. Aparigrapha ~ meaning not to be greedy or being free of desire. It is about living with generosity of spirit and action, giving without expecting something in return. In yoga, this helps us practice with an attitude of patience in which steadiness and ease is more important than getting into a pose.

This is one path but I encourage you to find your own or to at least give it some thought. We make decisions and choices everyday of our lives. By wanting to make clearer choices, based on our own code of conduct, we understand the value of our decisions and we become an active member of our own life, thus happier. Stop being the victim when you are the master and make the choices that will make you happy in the long-run because no one else will do it for you. Namaste.

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