Tag Archives: Community

Asteya – Non Stealing

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The yama Asteya considers non-stealing or taking what is not freely given. This includes taking what belongs to another without permission, using something for a different purpose than it was intended for, or using something beyond the time permitted by its owner. I think it is safe to say that most people are not thieves and do not consciously steal as there are laws and penalties in place to prevent these actions. Socially it is unacceptable to steal. But consider the idea of taking too much. Is this a form of theft? Society promotes our separation from one another. The survival of the fittest and “dog eat dog” mentality creates constant competition to succeed in life by making money and consuming goods. Caught up in the rat race, the greed of taking more than we need is justified by the fact that we need to ensure our livelihood. We can make thieves of ourselves trying to fill all the lack created by the obligation to prosper and succeed. Generosity is challenged by the idea of getting ahead. When we see ourselves as separate we identify success with money, ownership, and attachment to things. Greed is perpetuated as we succumb to the story of the successful self.   In his book Ascent of Humanity, Charles Eisenstein addresses this:

“Indulging it greed only exacerbates the underlying need, because enclosing more of the world into the domain of mine separates us all the more from the connected interbeingness for which we hunger.”

 

Taking more than we need may provide some feeling of security but perpetuates the need to keep taking. Generosity, charity, and love are ideals that can shift this pattern. Witnessing how interconnected we are with our communities and nature can provoke us to give back and help others. Opening the doors of generosity, benevolence and the practice of non-greed promotes a deeper connection with others. As humans this is something we all crave. The opposite action of stealing is giving. As individuals we are all blessed with amazing qualities, talents and passions. These are our gifts to share.   Be the Gift.

 

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Satya – The Yama of Truthfulness

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Sean O’Leary

 

Satya is the practice being truthful and honest in our thought, speech and action.  On the surface this yama may seem straightforward but in reality it requires a constant observance and understanding of the changing nature of our relationships and the world.

The definition of truth is “the true or actual state of a matter” or “conformity with fact or reality”.  Interestingly if matter and reality are in constant state of fluctuation and change truth will be relative to each circumstance and situation.  So to grasp at the idea of truth or honesty our yoga must be a spiritual practice that is rooted in a constant exploration of the present.

I love the idea of a practice that doesn’t state right or wrong or a single path but gives an idea that is relative to the individual, community, culture and causation of our surroundings.  Every person has an opinion and values developed throughout life.  Satya challenges us to investigate our motives. In his book Yoga for a World out of Balance Michael Stone points out the connection between person and society

“From the time of our birth, we each respond not only in a personal sense to the precariousness of our human condition, but we are also the inheritors of delusive social institutions and shared meanings about the world.  The same basic patterns we find in our minds and bodies are also found in the structure and function of our institutions.”



I like how Michael Stone challenges the reader to consider how contemporary society can warp our worldviews and potentially corrupt us into living untruthful lives.   The social and economic pressures of modern life make us think that success, financial gain and consumerism is equivalent to life satisfaction but this is ultimately a lie.  At our deepest core we yearn for love, community and compassion.   Yoga practice, meditation, pranayama, and asana all bring us closer to our true needs rather than our conditioned desires.  The yama satya prompts us to investigate our desires and how we can live aligned with our highest truth.

What does living honestly mean to you?

The Practice of Ahimsa (Non-Viloence)

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The Practice of Ahimsa (Non-Viloence)

Sean O’Leary

The first limb of the eight-fold path of Astanga Yoga is Yama or ethical discipline.  The Yamas provides us with a framework that considers how choices and actions impact our lives.  The first Yama is Ahimsa or non-violence/non harming.  Ahimsa is a universal concept that requires us to live peacefully and intend no harm through word, thought, or deed.   Often Yoga and related spiritual practices are methods that focus on enlightenment where the separation of the practitioner from their surrounding world could be seen as an achievement.  Opposing the notion of total separation, what if enlightenment is to wake up to the interconnectedness of life and live skillfully in the world.  The mind can distract us from the realities of our actions but only through practice can we place a greater importance on discerning the effects of our decisions.  Only then can we live a fully engaged life.

As we practice yoga we learn to settle the elaborations of the mind and eliminate distraction. With these distractions aside we are then able to accurately identify connections and interrelations in our lives. We are not separate individuals.  Decisions and actions we make affects every person, community, and environment around us.  Becoming aware of our actions and their impact is important when considering the practice of Ahimsa. When the mind is quiet we can make decisions free from the attachments, ideals, and prejudices of our thinking mind.  With the awareness we achieve through yoga practice, it becomes our responsibility to realize our actions have implications upon the planet and its inhabitants.

The scope of Ahimsa is broad and can be applied towards all aspects of our lives.  The impact of our food choices are often over looked but question the notion that most grocery stores stock foods shipped from all corners of the planet.  Whether they be bananas from Costa Rica, olives from Israel, or soya beans from China, the shipping of food takes an environmental toll.  In addition, the techniques or pesticides used to grow food, and the treatment of employees harvesting foods can manifest repercussions from choices as simple as diet.  As a separate being we enjoy the convenience, abundance, and variety of food but choose to ignore the multilayered reality.  The Yogin is conscious of the connectedness of our world and considers the karma (causality) of his or her choices.  It is easy to be distracted by modern media and want to separate ourselves from the sensational world (war, political unrest, starvation) but these realities are happening to us by extension.  We are the world.  We are not separate from the violence and injustice taking place on this planet.  Learning to react skillfully to these events without adding more hate, anger, or violence to an already awful situation is needed to dissipate the situation.  Fighting violence with violence is not a practice of Ahimsa.  Fighting fire with fire is also an important consideration while debating, or engaging in any conflict.  Identifying to our ideals and preaching our beliefs could be taken to be a form of violence in itself.  Expression of our ideas and opinions is important, but it must be done in a tactful and reflective way as to not offend or hurt.  We must contemplate the impact of our lives during a time when the earth is unprecedentedly sick.  If we become conscious of decisions and actions that deplete the worlds natural commons and resources, we can make practical choices that will heal our planet. Driving cars, using electricity, and carelessly consuming have negative effects.  A consciously moderate lifestyle will assist in making the world more capable to support the abundance of our planet.

One can be overwhelmed by the practice of Ahimsa especially when engaging controversial and contentious topics such as vegetarianism, veganism, fossil fuel consumption, abortion, gay rights, religion, and spirituality.  There is no book written that explains how live perfectly. We are obliged to make choices relative to the circumstances in our life. In his book Yoga for a World Out of Balance, author Michael Stone reiterates this point, “Nor can any theory claim to be a universal canopy of the different norms and values across cultures, because doing good is always relative”.  As practitioners or yoga it is our duty to constantly consider the practice of Ahimsa and reflect on our relationship with the world and always strive to live a fully engaged life.

I encourage everyone to share their ideas, comments, and experiences on this topic.

I’ll end with a quote from Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar:

“Violence is bound to decline when men learn to base their faith upon reality and investigation rather that upon ignorance and supposition”

The Rebirth of Community

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The Rebirth of Community

Sean O’Leary

            This Friday night, Live Yoga is starting “Dharma Nights,” which Amy and I are very excited to offer. This is an opportunity for members of the studio and other friends to talk, discuss, come together and create community. Community: something that I believe we are fundamentally missing in our lives.

This Friday, we discuss community as a topic. What is it? Why is it missing? Where did it go? How do we get it back? How can are our lives be more meaningful and connected?

What is community?  It is a really good question because in my opinion community has almost disappeared in our society.   It is almost foreign to consider being close to all the neighbors on your street, and also difficult remaining close to friends and family with our busy lives.  I tried to google the word community and the first 10 hits were about some American television show.  Even the internet has forgotten community.  How strange that we have boxed ourselves into such a sedentary lifestyle not requiring anyone’s help for anything, as if to say, “I’m an individual and I can provide for myself, make my own way, without your help.”  This way of thinking is ingrained in having a successful career and life.  I felt for years an urge to connect more with others, to help others or simply to be part of a group of people with similar interests and this yearning has remained.  It seems impossible to find community in most urban or suburban areas. In the past, being part of a community meant you had fellow beings to help support you through your life.  Members would gather weekly to visit and sing, and there would be abundant help during harvest time or when somebody was building their house, for instance. All would freely offer their time to assist.  I guess in the past people were just friendlier and more generous with donating their time.  Or maybe time was more abundant.

In the current society we live in, most people I know are too busy to take time for themselves.  40 hours a week in order to make ends meet.  After work a runabout of chores and activities fill the rest of our time.  Time has become a rarity and busy-ness a reality.  Time is Money.  Hmmmm That last sentence Time is Money.  Time is Money. Time is Money!  Money! Money!  Money!   This is the problem itself.  Our lack of community and ever increasing loneliness, as well as our despair about achieving success is driven by the very evil word, MONEY.  Most things we used to rely on our community for have now been turned into services that we pay for.  In fact any good business idea is just that, turning something people do for themselves into a service for a fee.  It paints a grim picture about the direction of our society.

In his book, Ascent of Humanity, Charles Eisenstein sums it up:

“…and so we find in our culture a loneliness and hunger for authenticity that may well be unsurpassed in history.  We try to ‘build community’, not realizing that the mere intention is not enough when separation is built in to the very social and physical infrastructure of our society.  To the extent that this infrastructure is intact in our lives, we will never experience community.  Community is incompatible with the modern lifestyle of highly specialized work and complete dependence on the specialists outside that work.  It is a mistake to think that we can live ultra-specialized lives and somehow add another ingredient called community on top it all.  Again, what is there to share?  Not much that matters, to the extent that we are independent of neighbors and dependant on faceless institutions and distant strangers.”

Ok so I realize this has been kind of a downer so far.  But it will brighten up from here, I promise!  The idea of the separate self should be abandoned so we can align with a more fulfilling way of life.  We have to need each other!  We must rely on the goodness within each of us.  We all desire to give and enact our gifts, and thus strengthen the bonds of community and create a more wholesome, organic and connected way of living.

There is another way, and it requires us to trust our true human nature.  We all have a goodness, a desire to be creative and make beautiful things.  A desire to meet, share, help and love others.  It is written in our genes!!  I do know something is perverted about our society, economy and so forth but as human we are all amazing.  Deep down our hearts all know we can live differently, and it will take some big changes to make the world, starting with our communities, a more beautiful place.

I think small changes are the most important for us to reconnect with the people around us.  Smiling and chatting with neighbours, cashiers and strangers you meet makes it more natural to be open with others.  Meeting in groups to enjoy like-minded ideas where everyone has an opportunity to share their gifts will harbour more connection between ourselves and others.  Living this way will develop relationships and over time those relationships can grow.  Living life with an open and loving heart will attract and sustain even the smallest seed of community, and seeds grow.

After searching more, I eventually found a definition of community on Wikipedia (the ultimate community project).

Community can refer to a usually small, social unit of any size that shares common values.  If community exists, both freedom and security may exist as well. The community then takes on a life of its own, as people become free enough to share and secure enough to get along.

This is an extremely powerful and intriguing idea.  How can we bring these community-focussed ways of living into our modern-day life to create more nourishing and connected relationships?

Let’s talk more about these ideas, and your thoughts about community, its difficulties and how to create more space for connection in our modern society! Dharma Night discussion happens this Friday night from 7:30-8:30pm. All welcome!