Brahmacharya | Reversing Overindulgence by "Going After Brahman"

Here we go, loves, week four of the yamas and niyamas series. This week we're covering Brahmacharya, or the tenant of non-excess. This one is interesting and stands out from the others, because when you translate it from Sanskrit, it literally means "going after Brahman." A Brahman in Hinduism is a teacher or guru, and some think Brahmacharya is meant to mean " walking with God," whatever God means for you.

Brahmacharya holds to an outlook of holiness, or the concept of sacredness, rather than indulgence. We talked about the concept of "enough," which goes hand in hand with this tenant, in last week's post. So, if you're interested in learning more about how to view your current life as being enough, I recommend reading that one, as well. This week's tenant asks us to walk through life seeing ourselves and all our experiences as being sacred, to be willing to "turn on to the wonders of life."

An amazing quote to bring this to life,

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
— Howard Thurman

When we overindulge, whether it be in food, sex, exercise, or an activity, we face several consequences. Gluttony leads us to feel lethargic; food that we overeat starts to lose its taste. We can quickly fall into an addictive state where we connect an item or activity with emotions. For instance, eating chocolate might lead me to feel happy; therefore, I start to eat chocolate any time I want to feel happy. Pretty soon, I have to eat chocolate in order to feel happy, and the amount that used to work no longer does it. Now, I have to eat more and more to get the same effect until pretty soon, I'm reliant on chocolate in order to feel any semblance of happiness. 

One thing I want to clarify here is that by practicing Brahmacharya we do not have to totally give up all things that bring us enjoyment or pleasure. These things are beautiful and we deserve to feel pleasure. The point of this tenant is to enjoy these without overdoing it; to have a piece of chocolate not the whole candy bar....every single day. By having one piece we are bringing enjoyment into our lives, but the whole thing on the regular will lead to dullness and destroy the enjoyment we once received from it.

Taming Overindulgence
Okay, so how do we tame our tendency towards overindulgence? Before doing anything, we have to become aware of where we're overindulging and why. Spend time checking in with your body and start to differentiate between a need and the story or emotion you've associated with the item or activity. Are you partaking in a healthy way or do you feel reliant of this item or activity to allow you to feel whole? Once you've found the areas where you're overindulging, you can begin to move forward with making changes.

When we know why we overindulge, what emotions we're trying to mask, we can face those emotions head on. Overeating, for example, can be a mask for grief that we don't want to deal with. Grief can be so painful and difficult to work through that we end up stuffing ourselves full to avoid having to process the pain. But, this leads us nowhere and just pushes the emotions down where they can fester and grow. Processing these emotions can allow us to heal so we don't feel the need to reach for food anymore to feel better.

Fasting or abstaining can also be ways of reversing overindulging and act as a reset for the system. There are a lot of compelling points on both sides of the argument on fasting and abstinence, so one needs to do research and ask themselves if this is the right method for them. Consulting a doctor before fasting is really important to ensure proper health during the practice. Some of the benefits can be a cleansing from what we have been overindulging in and help to identify the stories we've created about what we overindulge in.

Fasting can open us up to new ways of living and the space to create new rituals. Slowing down and finding rituals that have meaning for you and bring you a sense of happiness and peace is a great way to help break the pattern of overindulgence. Rituals can be slowing down and treating each meal as though it were sacred, doing an enjoyable activity like taking a bubble bath, or lighting some candles. 

Benefits of Wholeness
When we are able to flip overindulge into enough, we can begin to see the world as sacred and cherish our lives and all that is in it. When your world and your place in it becomes sacred, the feeling of balance and rootedness is likely to follow. Being grounded in being enough allows us to be more present and see everything and every experience as being a precious gift. We start to bring gratefulness back into our lives, which can fill us full of happiness and contentment.

When this happens, we no longer need to fill ourselves full of our favorite food or seek out activities that mask our emotions. We start to feel happiness in what is and gain the groundedness to face our emotions head on to grow and learn about ourselves.

Want to bring more holiness into your life? Here are this week's exercises:

- Notice areas where you overindulge or have excess. Start to bring awareness to these parts of yourself and explore what emotions are tied to what you overindulge in. What story have you associated with the overindulgence and what emotions are you trying to mask through excessiveness?

- Explore the concept of "enough." Learn what you truly need in life and begin to see that as being enough and sacred. Take part in pleasure without doing it in excess. 

- Create rituals. Find what holds meaning for you and brings a sense of peace and contentment into your life. This might be things like taking a bubble bath or lighting candles. It might be creating sacredness around each meal or a practice, like yoga. Explore and decide what would be the most meaningful for you.

- Find the sacred in life. Take the time to slow down and notice the beauty around you. This can be a mindful practice in noticing the little things around you and recognizing the holiness in this moment. This can also be a gratitude practice in identifying a few things each day to be thankful for.

Now, go out and "walk with God" and create sacredness in your life. I'll see you back here next week for our fifth tenant.

With love and light,