Brahmacharya – Wk 1 – More than abstinence!

Posted on Posted in Self-Study, Yamas & Niyamas


Hi everyone! I hope all of you were able to get outside this past weekend and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air. The Summer Solstice was Saturday and my daughter and I spent the day outside enjoy the sun and each others company. Now, on to Brahmacharya…..

Brahmacharya, or non-excess, is often described narrowly as abstinence or celibacy. I know during my YTT that was the aspect of this Yama that we focused on. Deborah Adele paints a very different picture and uses the idea of non-excess to encompass much more than just non-excess in regards to sexual activity. After all, humans have the tendency to over-do just about anything. Not all of us are guilty of the same amount of excess as some, but I think we can all admit that there has been a time when we slipped passed what was needed and into excess.

I feel industrialized nations have quite a large problem with this: too much food, too much alcohol, too much exercise, too much sleep, and too many possessions. Too much, too much, too much! Even spirituality can be overdone. The underlying current here is balance. To me, non-excess and balance go hand in hand. Balancing food and drink, rest and activity, social activities and time alone are all examples of Brahmacharya.

Opinions of Sexuality

For the first part of last week I worked with Deborah’s suggestion to, “…examine your beliefs, values, habits, and actions around sexuality and sexual activity….Notice if you act on outside authority, or your own beliefs.” Without going into detail, I will tell you that I have always acted on my own beliefs on this subject. I was brought up by a Christian mother and we didn’t really talk about sex. When the topic was brought up, it was, “no sex until marriage”. I personally don’t think this is a reasonable expectation. At least not for me. If you subscribe to this belief, good for you! I’m not here to judge, just share my experience. So, with that being said, I definitely formed my own opinion about sex and sexual activity in my teenage years. Even 15 years ago homosexuality wasn’t as mainstream as it is today. I remember being told that being gay is a choice and it’s wrong and sick. I guess I accepted what I was told about it as many children do, but during high school and college when I actually knew gay men and lesbian women I knew that what I had been taught was wrong. I don’t want to get into a religious debate as this isn’t the post for it, but I think if you teach that God is Love and He loves us all just the way we are, we need to be accepting of EVERYONE, and that goes for people of different color, religion, culture, and sexual preference.

Living in Non-Excess

For the second half of the week I used Deborah’s suggestion to live in non-excess: eating, sleeping, and working for balance and not to the point of lethargy. This is something I will continue to work on! For me, eating is the biggest one. I usually do just fine during the day of balancing activity and energy intake, but at night I tend to over-eat. You probably wouldn’t know this looking at me, but I do. I actually sat at the dinner table, feeling full, and wanted to finish what was left on my plate. I asked myself why I felt compelled to clean my plate and I came up with 2 main reasons.

  1. I was told as a child, “Clean your plate! There are starving children in Africa!”
  2. I HATE throwing food away.

So, to address number 1….I think a lot of us experienced this. I know I have some friends who had to stay at the table until their plate was clean. Now as a mother, I never do this to my daughter. When she says she’s full I let her leave the table. If she hasn’t eaten much I ask, “Are you sure? You didn’t eat much.” Sometimes she just wants to go and play (she’s 3 after all!) and that helps her realize, hey, maybe I’m not done yet. I also encourage her to sit with us at the table until we are done as I feel that eating dinner as a family is important. She doesn’t have to finish her dinner, but we sit and talk together.

And number 2….I’m assuming some of you are asking yourself, “why don’t you put it in a tupperware?” Sometimes I do! If there is enough. Sometimes there’s only a few bites left, or less than half a serving. What do you do in this situation? Throw it out? Save it? Eat it? 9 times out of 10 I eat it. You’d think that little bit of food wouldn’t make me feel too full, but it does. When I overeat I feel super crappy. And I mean super crappy. Last night I threw out what was left on my plate. My daughter left a few things and I threw that away too. As I scraped the food into the garbage I thought, “She doesn’t worry about what’s left on her plate, and she stops when she’s full. I should too.” This still didn’t make me feel better about throwing food away though. Sigh. I’m not sure what the answer is for the leftover food, but I do know I don’t need to eat it! So, keep it or toss it. I guess this will vary depending on the night, but right now I’m making a commitment to myself that I will no longer eat past what I need.

How can you practice Brahmacharya this week? What do you consistently do in excess? Can you eat/sleep/work in balance? 

Namaste Friends! <3


 Yamas book cover

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