Brahmacharya

As a child, my brothers and I would frequently watch a show called the Animaniacs.  This animated variety show featured an assortment of characters that each had their unique quirks, imageswhich provided the basis for the punch line. One such character was affectionately known as “Katie Kaboom” – the punch line being that whenever this teenage girl would become upset, she would literally and metaphorically explode.

I bring to mind this reference, for in many respects, I’ve noticed that I too am exceptionally prone to responding/reacting to things.  So while I may not have reached “DEFCON Five” like Katie,” there are numerous times in which my sensitivity to things would cause me to react/respond in a way that wasn’t always serving. This revelation, of course brings to mind an article I recently read on the fifth yama discussed in the Yoga Sutras: Brahmacharya.

Most often,  Brahmacharya is interpreted to mean the modulation of one’s sexual energy through abstinence (i.e. celibacy). However, as Hillari Dowdle notes in her article, Brahmacharya is more broadly about “preventing the dissipation of one’s energy through the imgres-2misuse of the senses.” Citing Joan Shivarpita Harrigan, Dowdle writes, “when you practice brahmacharya, you are not letting the senses rule your behavior.”  Under this notion, one is thereby able to begin to devote more time, attention, and energy towards one’s higher goals and pursuits (i.e. one’s dharma) because one’s efforts aren’t being randomly scattered to whatever stimuli are present.

This notion of brahmacharya was personally mind-blowing.  Not only did this notion give me a way of connecting to a philosophical position that had always seemed illusive, but it also gave me something to focus on during those instances when I would become instantly triggered or stressed. For instead of allowing myself to feed the thoughts that repeatedly relieved a perceived or experienced hurt, I could instead ask myself how I could preserve my energy in the moment?

Very often this simple question resolved any of the tension I was experiencing because it enabled me to see that no matter how many times I ran over the situation, this mental rumination and obsession would neither change the course of events or make me feel any better quote-when-the-turbulence-of-distracting-thoughts-subside-and-our-mind-becomes-still-a-deep-geshe-kelsang-gyatso-80-63-18about the situation. Thereby leading me to ask: What was the point in obsessing, of expending energy unproductively, in a way that was not going to lead to a different outcome?   The short answer: there was no point.

The question, I have for you, the question I am continuing to ask myself, is where in your life might you want to begin to cultivate the practice of Brahmacharya? For, if Nischala Joy Devi is right and “anything that causes turbulence in the mind and[or] stirs the emotions might be seen as a violation of Brahmacharya,” how might you be able to conserve your energy and apply it towards something more important by simply becoming aware of the instances in which you are unnecessarily expending your energy on fruitless thoughts or activities? What might be the possible benefits of such an approach?

For today, simply begin to notice the moment when you begin to react to something, and instead of reacting to that stimulus, ask yourself, “Is this the way that I want to expend my energy? Or is it possible to relax and release tension and resistance to this present moment?”

Namaste.