Patanjali laid out an 8 Limbed Path of Yoga to connect with the deepest layers of Self and ultimately to find happiness. The 8-Fold Path consists of:
- Yama (how to treat others)- non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, virtuous sexuality and non-attachment
- Niyama (how you treat yourself)- cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study, surrender to something larger than you
- Asana (postures)
- Pranayama (breathwork)
- Pratyahara (withdraw of the senses)
- Dharana (concentration or focused mind)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (bliss or union with the divine)
This yama refers to the absence of greed and refers to possessions, people and ideas.
The easiest way to view this yama is in thinking about material possessions. First and foremost, we must not steal from others. We must not steal their material goods. But this can be explored even further. The Dalai Lama says we will never achieve world peace when the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” is so large. He believes we must all live in moderation to do this. Greed can have many different faces and excess can mean different things to so many people. This virtue asks you to look at your possessions and see when you have just enough. If you have more than moderation, what can you do about this? What can you share with others? If we are always living to excess, when will we ever be satisfied?
How can someone have greed regarding people? This one is open to a large number of interpretations. The Yamas are how we relate to others. We want to be clear when we are relating to others we are not being greedy with their time or seeking unnecessary attention. We can steal other people’s time unknowingly- being late, creating drama, seeking attention in great amounts. I think this has become a huge issue as we have created our own ‘paparazzi’ and fame type mentality with facebook, twitter and instagram. I see people becoming so self-important that they don’t look at the message they are sending to others as a whole. They see themselves as the center of attention and will do whatever it takes to keep that attention or all eyes on them. Their needs for attention become greater than anyone else’s needs. This serves no one and relationships will not grow from this.
Another way to see this is that we often expect people to be and react a certain way. When they don’t, we become attached to our expected outcome and feel they have ‘failed’ us. When we practice non-attachment, we allow others to be who they are and love them all the same. This is an incredibly hard thing to do- to live without expectations of others. Start slowly and when your expectations are shaken, say in your heart to the person, “May you be free from suffering. May you know peace. May you know happiness.” Another one I like to use is “Forgiven. Forgiven. Forgiven.” This frees up my sense of grasping and creates space. These little blessings get you out of your expectations of others and allows everyone to be alright just as they are. This can provide the ultimate freedom in any relationship- being seen as you are free of greed, coveting and expectation.
We all believe we know what is best. This is just one of those human qualities. This Yama asks us to see beyond our own version of reality. To see that everything is open to interpretation and perspective. When we hold so tightly to our own beliefs and ideals, we never have room to grow and learn. Brian and I were just discussing this in terms of yoga. We know what we teach works because we have been practicing it for over a decade and our lives are forever changed. But the moment we decide this the only way, we close ourselves off from growing. If the word Yoga means “to yoke” or “union,” we would be missing out on so much by saying our way is the only way. The same is true of any system of beliefs. We must practice non-attachment to our ideas, thoughts, and values. The more we investigate what we know and are open to others, the greater we know ourselves and the more empowered we become.
Just some food for thought as you get on your mat and begin to explore yoga beyond your mat… In what ways might you need to discover the absence of greed?