Skip to main content

All things in Brahmacharya

Thanksgiving is without a doubt my favorite holiday.  Food and gratitude are two of my favorite things, and I always know I'll be seeing wonderful family and friends.

Last night I had the joy of gathering with a whole bunch of my dearest friends from college who all are living in New York now for our second annual (second of many more to come!) CNU Thanksgiving.  There was turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, cornbread, biscuits, pies, wine - the whole nine yards.  I tried not to go overboard, but it was a Thanksgiving dinner, after all, and by about 8:00 everyone in the room was helplessly slumped against the couch and their chairs, full to bursting with delicious food.  We all never wanted to eat again, but we all wanted third helpings at the same time.

It got me thinking about Rolf Gates's passages in Meditations from the Mat concerning the fourth yama, Brahmacharya.  Now, people mostly equate this yama with celibacy or chastity, but the literal translation is "to walk with God."  Gates (and others who study the sutras) look at brahmacharya as, "a call to practice moderation."

When it comes to talking about food, Ahimsa is most likely the yama that will be brought up when discussing with yogis.  Vegetarian and vegan yogis cite this first yama, meaning "non harming," as a reason for not eating meat.  The subject of a light, moderate diet is also a big conversation point in yoga, but I've never really looked at it through the lens of brahmacharya.  We've all heard the phrase, "Moderation in all things" (often tagged with "especially moderation").  Gates isn't suggesting that brahmacharya is unrelated to sex, he's saying that brahmacharya extends as wide as does the concept of moderation.  Both can be applied to food, sex, drinking, spending money, sleep or lack thereof - the list could go on forever.

As Marc and I get ready for the long trek down to my grandma's house in Florida, where rich, glorious, southern food awaits us, I'll be doing my best to remember these following wise passages from Rolf Gates.  Moderation is not about denying yourself from enjoying the food, wine (if you drink), and company - it's about mindfully keeping your body and therefore your mind and spirit happy, healthy, and comfortably nourished instead of overindulged and overtaxed.  It's about slowing down, savoring every bite, and stopping before you get that too-full feeling.

Gates elaborates:

Brahmacharya...gets a very bad rap in our culture.  Most of us associate moderation with repression.  The hero of the story loves the fair maiden, loves her passionately, and then the repressive forces come in to wreck the day.  No one ever seems to dedicate poems, screenplays, or odes to the joys of moderation or the rewards of passionate balance.  As a species we seem unable to see the forest for the trees.  Despite the staggering amount of evidence that excess destroys our dreams, there appears to be a human blind spot when it comes to the possibility that our most passionate existence might actually be accessed through balance and moderation

As we practice moderation, a wind begins to fill our sails.  We find that the ever-present anxiety that accompanies immoderation evaporates.  We realize that our fear, which grew out of a specific behavior, has contaminated every aspect of our lives.  And as we finally walk away from the food, the sex, the alcohol, the debt, the fill-in-the-blank, we leave our fear behind as well...We are no longer making up excuses for our reality....We find that when we do right, we fear no man.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Popular posts from this blog

The Magic of Brain Gym

I cannot believe I haven't blogged about Brain Gym yet!  That is absolutely bananas, and also sort of great because after a few years of incorporating the little bits and pieces I learned from Shari (founder & director of Karma Kids Yoga and the only boss I've ever had with whom I've also done crazy things like the pose on the right, which she named "fart neck"), I finally took the "Brain Gym 101" course this past weekend to learn more in depth about the what's and wherefore's.

Brain Gym is a lot of things, but what it is primarily is a way to facilitate better learning through movement.  Although it started in the field of education and helping children learn better, everyone can benefit from it.  You may be reading and writing just fine, but do you have a situation where you struggle to communicate your needs clearly to a partner, a friend, a co-worker?  Do you struggle with random bouts of unexplained anxiety that you struggle to release…

Faith in Humanity

The oft-quoted Kathrine Switzer, long distance female trailblazer, once wrote, "If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon."

Marathon Sunday is always one of my favorite days of the year in New York City.  I've spent these Sunday's over the last eight years that I've been here as a spectator and cheerleader, both in person and on the couch in my boot nursing my injury last year, I've been a volunteer, I went down with other marathoners and marathon volunteers to Staten Island after Sandy in 2012 after the race was canceled - and I've spent the last two years fighting to qualify for it.

Next year will be my year, along with my 'sole sister' (I'm making it happen) and work wife Laura, so this year was another year spent being absolutely inspired beyond measure cheering on the sidelines.  Seeing the heart, the raw emotion, the joy, the pain, the absolute love from the sidelines and from the runners is awe inspiring.  Ye…


It's been eight years today since I've been with the love of my life.

A few months from five years married (Costa Rica, here we come).

Eight years and a couple months since living in the city.

Seven years of Friendsgivings in NYC with my chosen family.

Seven years of Karma Kids Yoga - more chosen family and buckets of kids.

Ten years since college; fourteen of the friendships.

One picked-clean, no leftovers turkey last night.  A table of desserts.

And in ten days we do it again with family.

This morning I'm tired, still full, and grateful.