Sunday, June 24, 2012

Living the Life of Brahmacharya

This is my dog Gunnar. He is all Black Laborador Retriever. He lives to retrieve. He knows nothing about the study of Yoga or at least he has not told me so, maybe he does and this is the question I am going to explore.

I am currently in Yoga teacher training. It is an eight week program and I am on week 4. I have decided to study the 8 Limbed Path of Yoga by practicing a Yama and then a Niyama each week. This week it is the practice of Brahmacharya or non-excess.

Traditionally this was about celibacy in young monks, preserving your semen and protecting that life force for deeper meditation and focus. Non-excess may be a more contemporary interpretation and is possibly more attainable for yoga students in 2012. Non-excess is also something I can contemplate with regards to Gunnar. Is he the picture of moderation or is he excessive personified?

I could argue that he doesn't want for much. He wants to be fed daily with dog food and water. Does he want other kinds of food other than the food he is given? Well, the longing glances and impenetrable stares while I am eating my breakfast, lunch and dinner could imply that he would eat my food...ALL OF IT...if I let him. And yes, he has "stolen" sticks of butter, pieces of bread and other left-overs that were placed within his tongues reach. So, I guess we could come to the conclusion that if left to his own will-power, he would have little control of his eating impulses.

What makes Gunnar different from humans is the power of the voice. We have a voice to complain if we don't have enough, don't like what we have or want MORE! Food is an area I could definately work on brahmacharya. I tend to buy more food then we need and as a result, throw away food that goes bad.  At times have I have eaten more or ordered more food than I could or should have. I have indulged and over-consumed and my brain is bigger than Gunnar's. I have no excuse.

Gunnar doesn't excessively buy clothes, furniture, long for the newest car or latest electronic gadget.  His life is simple, feed me, walk me...better yet, take me to the dog park, and most of all...PET ME!  He can never be pet enough.  When I scratch under his chin, he lifts his head high and back- a huge heart opener  for him, a bit like camel pose- ustrasana, he does this naturally.

Gunnar has not asked for a new bed...yet...he is content to sleep on the floor but tends to prefer soft pillows.  He restrains himself at times when told to stay (when he obviously would rather be under the table waiting for dropped food).  When taken to the dog park and the ball has been thrown enough, he takes a break and lies in the long grasses in the distance to tell me that he is moderating his movement.  Gunnar is the MOST gentle being that I know.  He allows children of all shapes and sizes to manipulate his body.  They snuggle next to him, they dance with him, they wrestle with him- they use him in a variety of ways for their pleasure and he doesn't complain.  Gunnar barks on occasion, but doesn't carry on or use his voice in excess.

Wallace Slater, in his book "Raja Yoga" states that brahmacharaya is self-control in all things.  "Be temperate in eating, in sexual relaions, in movement, in emotional expression, in thought.  Avoid excesses of all kinds. Be gentle in action and speech.  Such behaviour will prepare the aspirant for subsequent practice in advanced mediation, and he will, at the same time, be an influence for peace in his surroundings (Slater, pg. 26)."  So Gunnar, because he is a dog, does not have a big enough brain to think about moderation.  He does what feels good and if that means he can get someone to pet him ALL DAY LONG, that is what he would do.  He is not intentionally practicing moderation so that he can prepare himself for advanced meditation, again, because he is a dog.  Yet, the above would have me contemplate how I could be more like Gunnar and be content with what I have and practice a little more moderation in some areas of my life like being patient and more quiet and content with what I have.

I do wonder, what does he do all day long when we are at work? Maybe he IS meditating?