The Masters have given us certain clues as to how to deal with that period when we are shaky, uncertain, and unsure. It is wonderfully outlined in the work of Patanjali. As a seeker, the very first steps in this path of ashtanga (ashta=eight, anga=limb) yoga is the yama and niyama. He says first as a seeker you have to learn restraint. If you don't learn restraint then you are going to be in trouble. You are not even going to move from where you are. You are going to stagnate.
THE YAMAS - restraints
- Satya (सत्य): Do not say anything that is false. Do not mislead others. Stay on the line of truth as you know it, as your heart believes it. Be consistent with your awareness and expression of truth.
- Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): Be non-violent; holistic in thought, word and deed. It begins with a thought. When we think negative of others, that's violence! That can hurt someone!
- Asteya (अस्तेय): Don't steal. Sometimes we want to take something that we have not earned through our own efforts. We steal in all kinds of ways. This creates karmic entitlement as you will be caught in the karma of repayment.
- Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): Don't be greedy. Don't be lustful that you want to covet what is another's. Don't go after things than what is more than enough. This leads to exploitation and manipulation. Release this.
- Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): The most potent energy within you can distract you, the gender energy, the reproductive energy of the second chakra. Don't get caught up in this.
NIYAMAS - things we should cultivate
- Śauca (शौच): Keep everything about you clean. You keep the body clean, you keep the mind clean, you keep the space clean. There is a saying "cleanliness is next to godlinesss".
- Santoṣa (संतोष): Learn to be contented, that's a virtue you should cultivate. Stay with what is before you. This is what you've earned in the karmic play. If you are not contented, how can your mind be stable?
- Svādhyāya (स्वाध्याय): Always study the teachings, the knowledge that will uplift you. This means the study of Self. You can see how we are so caught in academic study and profiteering. What about study of Self? No matter what you do, ensure you are always learning about who you are on your journey.
- Tapas (तपस्): The most powerful discipline is the mental one! The mind must be disciplined. Awareness must be disciplined. Discipline shouldn't be hard work. Discipline is for protection. Ultimately, discipline should be a joy. It energizes you, it protects your being; body, mind and spirit. But when it's hard, it's purifying. We call it Tapas.
- Īśvarapraṇidhāna (ईश्वर-प्रणिधान): Let all your actions be devoted to the Supreme. The motive for all your actions be to the Supreme! This is the most important one! One must remember at all times, whatever one is doing, is an offering to the Divine. Whatever I am thinking, whatever I am feeling, that's an internal offering to the Divine inside me. Whatever my hands are engaged in, my feet, it should be devoted to the Divine, to the upliftment of myself and those around me.
Be very watchful the moment you speak, the moment you think, the moment you act. Make the yamas and niyamas important. These are the first steps to integrating spirituality into daily living! If you are going to get involved in the world, these are restraints, remember them!
Ashtanga Yoga literally means “eight limbs of yoga.” These limbs are defined in the the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
- Yama: Universal morality; a program of ethical restraints or abstentions
- Niyama: Personal observances and practices that relate to the inner world
- Asanas: Postures both internal and external
- Pranayama: Control of prana or life force often in the beginning using breathing exercises
- Pratyahara: Control of the senses
- Dharana: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
- Dhyana: Devotion, meditation on the Divine
- Samadhi: Union with the Divine