Brahmacharya - walking the path of the divine consciousness
“When the mind is led about by the wandering senses, it carries away the understanding like the wind carries away a ship on the waters.” (Bhagavad Gita 2:67)
Brahmacharya, the 4th yama out of the 5 yamas, is most often translated as Sexual restraint or Celibacy. This is one form of translation, which makes many Westerners skip to the next practice and ignore the deeper meaning that this concept holds. A meaning that is very relevant to modern day, time and culture. In the ancient days those who were committed to the practice and study of Yoga committed to Celibacy, to preserve and utilise their energy for higher purposes.
But this is just one interpretation, and there are always deeper layers that apply to all of us, with the way we live our lives. One of the ways to interpret this concept is to see it as "right use of energy", "right use of creative energy", and potentially right, sacred use of the most creative energy of all, the energy that can create a new life.
So often this activity of intercourse, Sex, is lacking pure sacred attention. So often it is used to take power over, or away, with minimal loyalty or honesty. "The word “sex” comes from the Greek for “separation,” which reinforces the distinction between you and me. The word “yoga” really means the opposite of sex. “Yoga” means “to yoke, to dissolve separation.” "- Sharon Gannon
Sex is about sepration. Yoga is about connection, union and healing. A completely different attitude, energy and approach to the same action. So if we look at it more deeply, as a spiritual practice, we are to use this energy and practice to bring us closer, rather than create more separation and division. Brahmacharya examines the use of Energy in life and as a creative power. Sex is one form in which many engage, often manipulating others into it and abusing power. Being dishonest or unloyal. So it asks of us to make sure we attend to this practice with reverence, respect, compassion, kindness and honesty. That we never use it to take power away from others, or to give our power away. The literal translation means “walking in God-consciousness.” walking in the Divine, ultimate, higher consciousness. Brahaman means 'God' , 'the divine' or 'ultimate'. Charya means 'the path'. Hence it translates as 'being or walking in God consciousness or the divine consciousness'.
It is a practice that requires us to turn the mind inwards, to balance the senses, and ensure we are not enslaved by them, constantly chasing the external sensual distractions that exist around us. It is a practice that leads to freedom and liberation from dependencies and cravings. When we are no longer dependent on the external senses, on achieving that which exists in the outside world (another cake, lover, marriage, car, house, even longer meditation or perfecting the Asana), the inner joy that exists within us and is our true nature will arise.
In many ways it is finding the middle path. Between over indulgence and suppression / repression. extremities that many of us spend our lives between, struggling to find a place of balance and truth. Developing awareness of the role our Senses play in our lives and our general wellbeing, the impact our consumption has (physical, mental and emotional consumption) on our energy and state of being.
"Brahmacharya—the moderation of the senses—is one of the key practices yoga offers for managing sensory cravings." / Rolf Sovik
Suggestions to incorporate the practice of Brahmacharya into your Asana practice:
Observe your energy at the beginning and at the end of each class. Ideally you would end the class feeling recharged and relaxed. If you notice you reach the end of the class feeling more tired or depleted, try to adapt your practice more in the following class. Rest more, adapt and work with your energy level rather than an agenda
as to how your practice would look.
In Shavasana or seated positions: Place your hands on the lower belly, the reproductive system and organs area and breathe into this space and into your hands, softening it and celebrating it with every breath.
Include Ujjayi breath, to help you withdraw inwards , away from the external distractions.
Whenever your breath gets quick or erratic, compromised, rest and make sure you attend to your energy levels as a priority, rather than be caught up with achieving asanas.
Suggestions to incorporate the practice of Brahmacharya into your Everyday Life:
Daily practice of meditation / reflection, as a practice to draw inwards. It can be a short practice, and the benefits are revealed when it is down consistently over a long period of time. It is best you start with short periods that you can include in your everyday life, rather than keep waiting for a time where you will be able to allocate longer periods daily.
Brahmari- withdrawal of the senses
Become curious about the areas in your life that have balance and the areas that lack. Start considering what actions are needed to maintain more balance on more areas. Writing this down, or hanging a poster on the wall can hold you more accountable.
Consider reducing elements that deplete your energy, such as: staying up late watching TV, scrolling on Social media, or any other activity that just deplete your energy.
Perhaps stop drinking alcohol for a month, or during weekdays. Take actions that you can attend to in regards to where you are right now.
Keep a journal
Enroll in a creative activity! Dance, art, pottery, writing, photography, etc... There are many!
Take the time to consider what out of all of this speaks to you most. What comes up? I would encourage you to take the time and journal these points of reflection. Give it time and space and see what comes up.
Consider asking yourself what is your relationship to this creative energy? Possibly from a sexual perspective? How is your relationship with it? Do you enjoy it? Are you obsessed with it? Is there rigidity that could benefit from healing? Be curious. Be open to the thoughts. How comfortable or uncomfortable are you discussing this openly?
What is your relationship with creative energy in general? How do you express it? How would you have wanted to express it? What is it that holds you back?
Brahmachara is the conversation, the conservation and the mastery of all the energy systems and powers of our being.
May we be more fertile in all aspects of our being; emotionally, mentally, creatively and energetically. May we birth new ideas, possibilities, perspectives and ways of being and doing. Every day we are reborn, may we always celebrate life. May our practice always be a conversation, means to understand, acknowledge, converse and master or befriend the energy system, the powers, of our being.