When we are feeling good about ourselves and getting on with others around us, we tend to be happy. It’s as easy as that! But therein seems to lie the biggest challenge.
Have you ever really listened to the running commentary and silent judgements going on in your head all day about yourself? And how often do you like to blame others for spoiling your happiness? Living in harmony is just not that easy
I think its fair to say that a large number of problems, suffering, conflicts and wars in our world emanate from an idea of separation. I am different to you. We are better than them. This is mine, not yours. Humans are more intelligent than the natural environment. It seems to me that as long as we hold this kind of perspective of the world we can never be happy!
It’s interesting to know that this issue has always challenged us humans. Even more interesting are some of the solutions people came up with already centuries ago.
A man named Patanjali, for instance, wrote four books in the third century before Christ. He compiled in those books, the Yoga Sutras, a comprehensive approach to life and living according to philosophy and practices that had been written and passed down orally for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years before that. As Donna Farhi writes, “Patanjali weaves for us… a description of the process of unbinding our limited ideas about ourselves and becoming free”. Freedom = Happiness !!
This is important and really useful stuff folks! Perhaps you are saying, like me, that if it’s been there all this time, how come we don’t learn this stuff in school? But that’s a whole other discussion I guess.
The opposite of separation is wholeness or unity. Patanjali gives us ten principles that allow us to be at peace with ourselves, others and the world around us, or, in other words, to become whole. He called them, in Sanskrit, the Yamas and the Niyamas, and they are, in my opinion, a rock-solid foundation to being happy. Here they are:
Personal characteristics – how we relate to ourselves and to others (Yamas)
- Not harming, compassion for all living things (ahimsa)
- Commitment to truth (satya)
- Not stealing (asteya)
- Moderation or channeling of sexual energy/ desire (brahmacharya)
- Simplicity, not grasping (aparigraha)
How to live soulfully or authentically, relating to our choices in life (Niyamas)
- Purity (saucha)
- Contentment (santosha)
- Self-discipline (tapas)
- Self-study (svadhyaya)
- Celebration of the spiritual, surrender (ishvarapranidhana)
In a series of posts I will discuss each of these and how we might explore them in our daily lives.
Patanjali’s Yamas and Niyamas are often interpreted like a set of rules, of do’s and don’ts, and we just love to throw away any such rules forced upon us! But here’s another hypothesis: these principles are actually describing who we are when we are connected to our fundamental nature, when we are truly ourselves, when we are ‘whole’. So in fact we are that already and all we need to do is reveal it. This takes the idea of hard work and effort out of it.
Well, the only way to know this is to experience it. So let me know about your own personal experiences and how these principles speak to you.