BRAHMACHARYA : CELIBACY
That’s what it means folks. Here is why it’s a part of the eight-fold path; energy and how to use it is of the utmost importance in yoga practice. Everything we do is to help harness and give direction to our inner energy (also known as Prana). By practicing celibacy or abstinence in an intentional manner, you are able to further harness your Prana. As the energy grows more potent, your path towards deeper states of meditation and realization becomes more direct.
There are variations on the theme that are also useful. One is translating brahmacharya to mean “right use of energy”. Bringing attention to the many ways we use or misuse our energy on a daily basis. And, taking it a step further, looking specifically at how we use or misuse our energy in relationships.
As I mentioned earlier, I did not want to come to New Mexico. My husband really really did. Let’s just say that conversations around this discord did not go well. They did not go well in New Hampshire before we signed the contracts, they did not go well over the 2,068 miles it took to drive to New Mexico, and they did not go well for the entire first year we were here.
I was resentful. Maybe someday when I write a book I will share all the reasons why. But the baseline is I was resentful and not handling it well. As we made the last turn onto the long road that would take us to our new home, I started physically shaking. By the time we pulled into the driveway I was sobbing and couldn’t catch my breath. I think it’s the closest I ever came to a true nervous breakdown.
I had just gone from recently living in NYC which held 8 million people, to a slice of land equal in size but with just eight of us on it. You read that right. Eight. We had moved our life to a 46,000 acre ranch where the nearest neighbor was 4 miles away. I’m sure it was beautiful, but I couldn’t see it. The isolation was unnerving; perhaps it was just the newness of the situation but it felt terrifying to be suddenly so alone. Night was especially frightening. Every noise a threat, a possible intruder – human? Animal? (I would like you to know, and I kid you not, as I wrote that last sentence a large brown bear just strolled not 10 feet away from my window).
Apparently I had permanently traded in cute dresses and flip flops for jeans and closed toed boots (in the summer!!!) as rattlesnakes and bull snakes were a regular thing out on the front porch. Wildfires billowed smoke from just a few miles away. Storms that rolled in did not induce a sense of peaceful introspection but rather sideways rain and golf ball sized hail that left me wide eyed all night wondering, was the little piggy wrong? Was the house going to actually blow right down?
Did I mention the power kept going out?
So, you know, days without any electricity or water?
Or (worst of all!) – no internet for the first two months?!
I wish I could say I was approaching it all with a sense of adventure, but I. Was. Not. I had given up a lot to come here, and I didn’t expect we would be roughing it quite this hard. On top of everything, it had become clear on day one that there was a lot of physical work that had to be done in and around the property. Brad and Adan (who was with us for the summer before returning to New Hampshire for school) left the house as soon as the sun came up, stopped in for food midday, and often returned after it got dark. Which meant by default, I was left to do the cooking, cleaning and unpacking. Instead of seeing it as a harmless result of our particular circumstance, I was livid. I had apparently just given up my career to suddenly become an overnight housewife.
So yeah. Brad and I fought a lot. Unfortunately.
Then, 13 days after we arrived, on Friday the 13th to be exact, Brad had an accident that shattered his knee. You can read the whole story from one of my earlier posts, but essentially: there was an emergency surgery, several days in the hospital, and 3 months of him being unable to walk.
A lot changed. I can’t tell you the arguing between Brad and I stopped entirely at that point, but there was a bit of a reprieve. Looking back at it all now, I don’t blame myself for the feelings I had. But at the same time, energy is energy and it’s clear that most of mine during this period was going towards anger and resentment. Which left very little room for anything else. Because my energy was already consumed elsewhere, I had nothing left for the good. Or the beauty. Of which there was a lot. I eventually got to a place where I could see that, but at the time there was just deep withdrawing. It had an overall constricting effect, not just on me but towards the people around me as well. Like Adan. I was not showing up as the best version of a bonus mom as I had hoped. I would say it’s hard to be generous with your energy when you feel like you have none. But I didn’t have none. I had a ton. It was just being pointed in a different direction.
The moment I saw Brad’s pale pale face behind Adan on the 4-wheeler, I knew something was very wrong. I also in that moment felt an instantaneous shift in my energy. It wasn’t even a thought – I had to direct my energy into a completely different direction now. I had to step up. First crisis management, then caretaking – for all of us – because I was the only one able to do it. And I wanted to.
Yoga, as I mentioned earlier, is about learning to harness and direct our energy. We practice it through our bodies and breath on the mat. But the most important place we practice it is off the mat. Brahmacharya literally means “to behave in a way that leads to God”. Whether you believe in God or not, we can practice living with “right energy” everyday in the relationships that are closest to us. Our families. Our children. Parents. Spouses. Ourselves. It’s the hardest work! But some of the most critical. No one is saying this is easy. Far from it; it’s some of the hardest work I know. And in part, it is so hard because it’s so nuanced. Right energy doesn’t mean putting up with things you shouldn’t. And there are times when certain energies, like sadness, fear, or depression, are so overwhelming that it’s hard to do anything else at all. Our yoga practice can help us navigate that a bit – and in time, learn to hold what we are feeling in relationship to the world around us. Experiencing one thing doesn’t have to mean blocking out everything else. It requires a lot of attention and steadiness to know what is right energy in any given moment. Kind of like our yoga practice 🙂
I’ll share more later, but I am happy to report Brad and I eventually got to the other side of that rough patch. And my heart was able to soften and take in more and more of the good. It’s a reward that’s been hard won. But very worthwhile.