February's Book: The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele
First and foremost, don’t let the words Yama and Niyama stop you from reading this blog/review! These words essentially mean Social Ethics (How to Treat Others) and Personal Observances (How to Care for Yourself) as a mean to live a fulfilled, purposeful life full of contentment and love.
This was a book introduced to me by my 200-hour Yoga Teacher, Rachel Wilson, of Om My Yoga Academy in 2012 during my training. I was able to integrate this book into the required reading for Yoga Teacher Trainings over the past 5 years. In addition, several of my patients at my psychotherapy practice read this book as a vehicle for personal growth. It is essentially a “How to Guide” to living a kinder, more compassionate and more aware life.
Adele seamlessly conveys ancient eastern philosophy in a way that is super simple, easy to read and applicable to modern life. When I read this book initially (which is only 180 pages in length) I felt an initial feeling of, “What a horrible human I’ve been,” “I really need to change my life choices.” But then I was assured by Rachel, that we don’t know what we don’t know until we know it! Meaning, I needed to give myself a bit of compassion as I take in all the book had to offer. At least now I was aware of the concepts and had an opportunity to apply them moving forward.
The Social Ethics (Yamas) are broken down into:
Let’s take these one by one in the simplest of terms. Nonviolence is exactly what it says – being kind to others and to yourself, even when people wrong you. This does not mean that you are a doormat. It means you can assert yourself when needed but not by cutting someone off at the knees. I should also mention, each previous tenant must be considered in using the following one. So that brings us to truthfulness or honesty. Let me just get this out of the way, eliminate “I wasn’t being mean, I was just being honest.” Just stop that, lol. Because kindness should dictate truth. You were being honest but you were also being mean. It isn’t what you say, it’s how you say it when you speak your truth – but by all means, live your life, say what you want to say, but do it with a sense of compassion. Non-stealing teaches us to find gratitude in our present states (don’t steal from yourself by living in the past or worrying about the future), bask in your joy. Also, let other’s shine and don’t steal from their moments in life (we all know that “one upper”). Moderation teaches us to reach a point where enough is enough – but the bigger take away here is about investment. Where do you invest your time, energy and love? Do you give to others to the point of emptiness in Self? Or do you give enough, show the love, but also give them the opportunity to struggle and grow themselves, restricting a sense of codependency or savior complex? Finally, non-attachment teaches us a lesson in impermanence – do not over attach to the ones you love or the wicked, because the connection is impermeant and will not last forever (the good or the bad). Be present. Be grateful. And release.
The Personal Observes (how to care for yourself/live a kind and happy life):
The personal observances seem to a be a bit harder to apply, because applying anything to ourselves is often more difficulty, scary and imbued with potential failure. But, remember, you’re a work in progress, so it isn’t failure, it’s continued growth, and missteps are just part of the process.
We start with purity – purity in body, mind and spirit. How do you nurture or injury your physical, mental and energy body with food, alcohol, drugs, etc.? How about your thoughts? Are you thinking with compassion or with envy, anger, etc.? And what about your spirit? Do you speak to yourself with a sense of compassion or are you critical? Change one or any of these and notice how your mood shifts and the cloudiness of impurity fades. Contentment – do you find gratitude in daily life, or do you find yourself dwelling in all the bad things that have happened? Next time you have a bad day, ask yourself what were a few things that went well. Often times we magnify the negative and minimize ALL the positives. That brings us to discipline. If you want to get better, become better, well, you have to but in effort. And effort takes work. Sometimes, it just starts with baby steps. The first baby step might be SHOWING UP. Make your therapy appointments. Read self-help books. Meditate. Create gratitude lists. Exercise. Say no to someone. Say yes to something new. Do one or any of these and once you’ve done it long enough you will find just how good you begin to feel. Then there’s self-study, this is the big one. Are you willing to look at your pain, your pattens, your choices or are you going to suppress them, avoid them and push them away finding yourself wondering why things just won’t change. Facing yourself is one of the hardest but bravest things you could ever do because the answer are INSIDE OF YOU. And finally, the maha moment – surrender. Oh, to surrender… wow. This is the end goal really. Can you enter into life with a moment of radical acceptance? Everything that has happened to you is happening for you. What is the lesson I was meant to learn? What beauty came from my pain? And how about, what was meant to be was meant to be. I have a choice to dwell in it until I find myself buried in a pit of despair or build myself a latter or insight and growth.
In very short terms, this is what Deborah Adele’s book taught me (I have done it a sense of injustice by writing less than two pages, but still, I hope it inspired you to purchase it, because you will not regret it!).
Keep in mind, this book didn’t fix me. I am still a work in progress. This book is one that you can come back to time and time again. I probably did not even do it justice, but I hope I convinced you to give it a read. Check out the link to the book below!