yamas and niyamas

The Yamas and Niyamas

When I started working with the Yamas and Niyamas, I worked on one each for a month; then, I realized that I needed a more extended period to work on each. Now I pick one per year to work with. This year I chose Aparigraha (non-possessiveness). I am having trouble letting go of relationships (loved ones). I am a Leo, and everything I have ever let goes of has claw marks on it. Right now, I am heartbroken and not ready to see loved ones leave my life. Deborah Adele tells a story about Aparigraha, where a person watches birds land on a perch. They stay a while, and then they fly away, but you do not see them flying with their nests. Can I stop hanging onto my perch so that I can fly?

 Last year, I balanced my third chakra, and I am happy to realize my intentions. The impending loss of loved ones shocked me in my capital center, right to the very core. I started asking questions like how long a relationship should last, looking at the time itself, wondering about our departures, what it must feel like to face death and separation head-on. I am not sure that I have come to any conclusions on these complex subjects. Still, I did find a way to regain my psycho-emotional body through journaling, art journaling, meditation, tapping, healing codes, and talk therapy. This year I enter the year finding that my first and fourth chakras are struggling. I did not realize how much grief and heartbreak I was carrying until I became sick with pneumonia. I never get ill, and almost twelve weeks later, I am still struggling to find my immune system and cardiovascular system healthy and back to normal. I have been working on this diligently for weeks now to self-nurture and support these systems back to health. My ego is hurt to be struggling in my fourth chakra as this is where I am usually my most vital, and now I am about to learn how to grow here this year.

In starting my Journey in aparigraha, I observed this at the Manomayakosha level (habitual patterns of thought and emotions) by noticing how shame feels in my body, this prickly sensation in my body skin, and this feeling of being in a tunnel as my heart sinks back. My energy seems to speed up and fall back, so I go first to rajas and then to tamas. My mind starts to look for ways to blame, and the itty-bitty-shitty committee (self-doubt, scarcity, and shame) becomes louder in my head. I have been working on shame now for four years, and I am starting to build resilience to it where I can catch it more at the moment and label it as “this is a shame scenario” and decide whether I want it to trigger me. The parenting style of shame, blame, and guilt was intense in my household, and growing up in a family that attended church, this style is present there. There have been many years of “shame conditioning,” and I use this as a reminder to give myself grace as I learn a new healthy pattern that will serve me better. I am starting to realize that this is separate from purusa / atman (seer/ individual consciousness) as I can observe my patterns.

   The Anamayakosha (the physical body’s systems concerning the rhythms of nature) relates to the first chakra, earth, and tamas. I am facing the fear of loss and being alone and learning about my right to be here and the value that I bring to this universe as myself. So far, as I practice Aparigraha, my physical awareness is to permit myself to lean into fears, so when I feel my body tightening, I know my nervous system is being over-stimulated and that I am not handling an emotion well. I then prioritize journaling and my restorative yoga practice to reflect on what message my mind and body are sending me. Personal practice gives me access to my wisdom center, where I can go to a sacred place to see what story I am making up and if it fits with my authentic self. When I lean into my fears, I find peace.

   The Pranamayakosha (the energetic dimensions of our being) relates to the second chakra and water. I know from experience my heart will heal and that I will grow and thrive. Why am I attached? Trusting the Journey – this seems to be at the center for me right now. At times, I do not even believe my breath. When I permit myself to trust it, I find the present moment of in/ out and that the blessings I have outweighed the turmoil. Water calms me and brings me to sattva; it also helps me determine the day’s mood. Water is an excellent teacher and mirror for me. I learned that living by the water and making time to sit in its presence brings me balance. I find freshwater bodies better as the ocean gets to be overwhelming to me at times.

Vijnanamayakosha is the witnessing faculty that allows for transformation. This kosha relates to the fourth chakra and air. I am facing sorrow and the right to love and be loved. I started a three-day fast, and I am always amazed at how attached I get to the food every year. During meal times, I reflect on how much emotional baggage I carry in my mind – I work… I grow… am I making headway? I am grateful for the reminder that I can find what “enough” is again about fueling my body. My expectations and “need to fix” keep me captivated, frustrated, and attached. Why do I not follow my gut and let go? Why must I control? I have worked on the physical clutter in my life. I have come a long way, still have a way to go, but the emotional chaos has been slower to come, and a year ago, I started working harder on it. Every time I find myself loaded down with physical bags, I ask myself, “What emotional baggage is this representing? Can I permit myself to let go of something and lighten my load?”

Anadamayakosha relates to inner joy, which is our true nature, more fundamental than personality. This kosha refers to the fifth, sixth, and seventh chakra and space. I have started praying and reflecting morning and night. I have always meditated mid-day but felt a process to start and end my day was needed. My mind is focusing in a more nurturing way that serves my greater good. I participate in seva because it keeps me grounded and grateful. I concentrate my seva around homelessness and fighting human trafficking. I love what I do for work. It brings me joy. The high of hearing all the success stories from my clients is like no other. If I cannot let go of how it is, will I find the next level that I need to grow? I am grateful every week. My blessings are endless. What weight on my shoulders do I need to let go of? How much suffering do I want to endure?

Aparigraha has influenced my relationship with “self” and “awareness of self” so far by leaving me with this question “When nothing works, what will I do?” My faith was shaken. I meditate daily. I do my best. I am kind and compassionate to others. I eat healthy food, I read books, for the most part, I live a responsible, everyday life with integrity. So why am I facing upwards of ten losses in my life right now? What will I do? While traveling in Nicaragua this summer, I learned about koan and paradoxical anecdote or riddle to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment. Everything is subject to change, and nothing has any “autonomous essence,” as my mentor Beth Shaw would say, “You never see change and comfort in the same sentence.” It appears as though the surer I am of my path, the harder my identity falls apart when hit with a storm. Again, Beth’s words hit me. For years now, she always says to me every time we speak, “There are always many options.” Being an adult at times sucks! The ugly truth of the fact that “We are drying up, we will die, we will lose our loved ones, we are entitled to nothing, and there are no guarantees.” makes me angry. I tend to go from one extreme to the other, controlling to passiveness….where is the balance? I know that when I stop holding and wishing for things the way I want them to be and stop expecting things to work out perfectly the way I want them to, I have no choice but to let go! This time, where you are, you have stopped hanging onto the edge of the old cliff; you are in midair… vulnerable, scared, and trusting that the other new foundation on which to land is coming soon, and it is approaching with a (mostly) smooth landing. When I lean into this without judgment, I am suddenly free, accessible in the self-knowledge that everything is. I am right where I need to be to grow and have no control over anything. All I need to do is breathe in/ out.

Aparigraha has influenced my relationship with others by acting as a mirror for growth. It allows me to have a dialogue with myself to determine what stories I am telling myself. Are they factual stories or made-up stories? Is this my stuff triggered, or is it the other person’s stuff, and I am happy to take on their emotional clutter with my emotional clutter (as if my own is not enough already)? Am I trying too hard to make this relationship work, and I need to detach and stop grasping and clinging? I am in the fight of rajas, or I am in the freeze of tamas because I do not want loved ones to change and leave me. Currently, I am stuck in this limbo/ this rumble of my story. Though, I have set an intention to trust the Journey, be grateful for the present moment, and remind myself that I am enough and do enough.

The year of aparigraha growth continues as I improve and strengthen my “letting go” muscle.

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