The weather has been a tad unpredictable recently as Mother Nature is not sure whether the weather should be rain, hail or snow and the sunshine seems to be rather scant!
Unpredictability is part of life, even when it can be time consuming and rather annoying at the best of time, but we can use yoga practices to help us at least stay calm enough to weather the storm. And often, the storm in fact is the best way for us to make the changes we need or should be making but have been resisting. Jon Kabat Zinn writes:
“No matter how many scars we carry from what we have gone through and suffered in the past, our intrinsic wholeness is still here: what else contains the scars? None of us has to be a helpless victim of what was done to us or what was not done for us in the past, nor do we have to be helpless in the face of what we may be suffering now. We are also what was present before the scarring—our original wholeness, what was born whole. And we can reconnect with that intrinsic wholeness at any time, because its very nature is that it is always present. It is who we truly are.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali suggest many ways in which we can stay connected to who we truly are through the 8 limbs of yoga and we can use the 8 limbs as our compass during times of storm.
The first two limbs are the Yamas and Niyamas which are ethical guides to living and include the following:
Yamas – right action principles
Ahimsa – non harming – that starts with the self – being kind to ourselves, not judging or being irritated by the limits of our physical being but rather embracing who and what we are and this helps us to extend that kindness without judgement to all others.
Satya – truth – being honest with the Self – we often lie to ourselves more than any other – learning to be honest with ourselves helps us to be more honest with others.
Asteya – non stealing – of time (being late constantly), of other people’s ideas, of praise that may belong to another.
Brahmacharya – everything in moderation – lacking in greed – using our energy to its best advantage.
Aparigraha – non attachment – not expecting anything to be a certain way – allowing and accepting things as they are in any moment and knowing the difference between things we can change and things we cannot change. This does not mean we should accept abusive behaviour however!
Niyamas – Correct practices or observances
Saucha – purity – external cleanliness and internal cleanliness – not thinking bad things about others or judging, being careful what we watch, listen to or say – not being involved in gossip
Santosha – contentment – that we have enough – that we are enough – not needing anything or looking outward for fulfilment or giving over our emotional power to someone else.
Tapas – self discipline – meaning heat – the heat that is created by our trials and tribulations but learning to rise above them through self discipline knowing that nothing lasts forever.
Svadhyaya – self study – knowing ourselves – realising any hate or love that exists for others must be within ourselves first – to know ourselves and our true nature means we free ourselves through learning to watch how we respond and or react. The better we understand our reactions the easier it is to make the change and learn to respond to life’s situations and responding is much healthier for the body!
Ishvara Pranidhana Surrender (to God) – in short let go of the ego! When we learn to stop fighting life we learn to act more skilfully then life feels and becomes more nourishing for our whole being.
So, in truth Jon Kabat Zinn is outlining the Yamas and Niyamas of Patanjali and although this wisdom is ancient it is more relevant today than ever!
Happy Self Study and being kind to yourself!