This is the first day of 2016; it is a good time to present a quick review of a small part of the ancient teachings of yoga. The 5 Niyamas are guidelines or personal rules that are helpful in creating a balanced, healthy life. Simple to understand and powerful in result when applied consistently in life. Remember, the idea is to incorporate these practices over time so that they become natural to your way of life.
Begin by reading them through and making note of any your are already doing, even if you would like to be more faithful. Take a moment and make a gratitude list toward yourself for what you are doing and also mention your teachers. Then, look at the ones you are not yet doing or would like to do more regularly. Pick One. Perhaps you meditate every morning and would like to do so before you go to bed at night. Form the intention to prepare for bed 20 minutes earlier than usual so that you can go to your chair or cushion before you retire. Using a short guided meditation may help you to get started. You can develop silence once your routine is in place. Note: it is best to turn the light in rather than reading or watching tv in bed since these activities stimulate thought and imagination. Once this is easier, choose another one to begin incorporating.
Use these to evaluate, affirm, and inspire you rather than slipping into old habits of disappointment or self-judgment.
Purity: We experience human life through our physical senses so we are taking in energy from the world around us in the form of air, food, sounds, sights, smells, and sensations of touch. The question is “Is what I am taking in clean, healthy, and vibrant? Does it support my journey into fullness, joy, and bliss?” The quality of air, food, and water are obvious and many of us are already using ionizers, air and water filters, and cleaning up our diets. What about the music you listen to on a regular basis? Or the way people speak to you? What is the quality of the sounds you are absorbing? How do you sound when you speak to yourself or about yourself? Do you massage your feet with lavender oil at night or get a professional massage on a regular basis? Are your clothes comfortable? Who do you hang out with?
Contentment: Contentment emerges within and then shines without regardless of outer circumstances. Meditation is the most powerful path to lasting contentment. When we learn to turn within to the silence, to that sweet space where we experience our Oneness with the Divine, we come to know ourselves as spiritual beings who are loved unconditionally. As this awareness deepens and grows, we rest in this knowing and contentment is born and nourished. This frees us from wasting energy trying to control or change people or circumstances.
Discipline: I define disciple as practicing a behavior over and over until it becomes my own. When I first was learning to breathe fully to abdomen, ribs, and chest, I had to think and feel my body moving. Countless times during the day, for weeks and months on end, I would stop and feel myself breathing. Now it is the way I breathe naturally. I still catch myself holding my breath when I am upset or confused. I notice it very quickly and return to the conscious, slow breath because I need air to be calm, clear, and make wise choices! The side effect is that I seldom stay upset for very long. Discipline is not about punishment; it is about faithful practice until what you desire is natural to you.
Spiritual Exploration: Taking yoga and meditation classes are a wonderful way to learn and practice at the same time. Resources are truly unlimited through books, audio, video, and online study programs. There are numerous bloggers like me – many that I am learning from – and our work comes to you free of charge! Group activities at your church, ashram, or in someone’s home are stimulating and offer the opportunity to build community as well. As spiritual beings, we thrive when we are continuing to expand our understanding, sharing our lives with others who are seeking with us or can guide us.
Surrender to the Divine: In spite of science, new thought, etc. life is a mystery, a Divine Mystery. We have many ideas about where life comes from, how and when it started, how will it unfold, end up, continue…or not. The unknown gives birth to faith. The unseen is more powerful than the seen. Truth is often found between the lines and in the silence between the spoken words. This Divine Mystery, the Universe, Spirit, God has as many names as there are languages, believe systems, emotions and imaginings. Surrendering to something greater than yourself, even to the flow of life itself, is profoundly powerful. It leaves you free to love yourself without judgement and to honor your own journey, to allow others to walk their paths and honor the sacredness of their journeys. It allows you to trust when you do not have the answer and the path is unclear. You begin to trust your own confidence in the Oneness of All That Is, in the Oneness you experience in meditation that can only be found within.
Try something new as this new year begins. If you have let something beneficial lapse, pick it back up – no harm, no foul. Just begin again. It is a new day, a new year after all. I am here in my sweet space of silence cheering you on! Namaste.