Saturday, December 20, 2008
A man was talking on his cell phone on the Howard Line CTA train: “You gotta take care of yo wife.” Pause. “You know what I mean.” Pause. “He. He. ‘Cause the little man is all we got.”
I might know what he means. Our sexuality is important. And at the same time who we are is so much more than our “little man” or “little woman.” I think we’ve got a whole lot more than our sex organs in this life. And it’s dangerous if we believe that the only important or good thing about life is sensual pleasure—which includes a lot more than sex. It could indicate depression if that’s what we think, and create a fertile ground for addictions to take hold. And yet many of us seem to be in this kind of space to one degree or another. I am.
The call to pleasure is strong! And, just the thought of someone trying to tell me what to do with that part of my life makes me want to hide under something! No!
Yet, the concepts defined in the eight limbs of yoga, including the fourth aspect of Yama: Bramhmacharaya, or self-restraint with sensual pleasures, I feel are nature defined, rather than exterior rules to be enforced. The concepts have the potential to indicate where we might be unbalanced, and individuals can take it from there, either by ignoring the information or by going deeper.
“Can’t wait for the workday to be over” (so I can drink beer, or enjoy something). “My day will get good as soon as I get off work…” These are the kinds of statements I hear from people all the time. What is it that happens after work that is so good? Sometimes it’s getting drunk, sleeping, or sitting in front of the TV. I think it’s the promise of doing something you want that is so good. But, are we really doing what we want in our off time? Or is life a constant struggle? We might be so tired from a stressful job that a drink is the best thing one can imagine at that time. Escape!
Our hectic and stressful lifestyles make restraint of any kind difficult. We want what we want, and if the money is in the pocket and it’s legal, what reason is there to hold back? Our extreme work requires extreme play. Current society is built on this.
When I am in a contented state of mind, I enjoy more natural foods, light foods that are subtle in flavor (in line with Brahmacharaya). I am happy with life when I feel good. And when I am stressed there are times that a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream seems like the cure to my pain. It’s not the ice cream that is bad, it’s the way I have engulfed the whole container desiring escape into a beautiful ice cream dreamland that is suspect. The ice cream can’t save me or solve any of my problems; all it can do is give me a moment of pleasure. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but it is bad for me when it’s a pattern of escape, whether it’s with ice cream, cookies or whatever.
There is only so much time in this life, and I want to use it as well as I can. I believe there is something more for me in this life, something I can accomplish; there is some way I can contribute to this world to help make it a better place. And when I loose sight of that, that’s when I want to escape. It can be so painful to not know, or to feel hopeless.
The message from Brahmacharaya to me at this time is: Don’t get so lost in what you’re feeling that you forget what you are doing.