Whether we find ourselves overdoing it with food, work, exercise or any other preferred distraction of choice, brahmacharya or nonexcess, invites us to remember the sacredness of all life. This guideline is a call to leave greed and excess behind and walk in this world with appreciation and gratitude.

While brahmacharya is often interpreted as abstinence, it’s ultimately about tempering our passion as not to over rule us. In yogic thought, there is a moment when we reach the perfect limit of what we are engaged in. Food is the classic example. Healthy, wholesome food gives us energy and vitality until we over do it. Then it’s a downward slide into lethargy. Nonexcess asks that we slow down and recognize “enough.”

Part of why we over indulge is due to our minds. It’s in our nature to associate pleasant emotional states with certain foods, activities, thoughts and behaviors. It feels good and we want more. As we continue to “chase” the positive association, it’s easy to develop an addiction-like need for it. Many people start to believe they need the donut, person, shoes, or drink to be happy, that the power to make themselves content is outside of them.

Over indulgence snuffs out the life force like too many logs on a fire. We’re drowning in stuff. We must learn to separate bodily needs from the mind’s stories. For example, I need food to survive but I want chocolate. But when I check in with my body, I invariably find that what I’m really after is rest, comfort and a bit of delight.

Cultivate Appreciation

The irony of this precept is that if we are in the pleasure and not the addiction, we are practicing Brahmacharya. Nonexcess is not about nonenjoyment. On the contrary, it’s about enjoyment and pleasure in its fullest experience. What it helps us remember is the quality of our relationship to what brings us joy. Do we deeply appreciate what we have? If so, how do we show it? Do we stay in the moment or do squander the time trying to capture it?

Brahmacharya is currently in mode by way of minimalism. It asks that we slow down and take a hard look at how we consume across all areas of life. It asks that we use technology to maneuver life’s demands without it taking over our lives. It asks us to light candles, meditate, take hikes, get a massage or spend a few moments enjoying nothing.

The fifth guideline, wrapping up the Yama portion of the “Yamas and Niyamas,” is nonattachment.

Beams of gratitude to Deborah Adele for her wisdom and inspiration.

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