Over the weekend I attended Meghan Maris’ Ethics of Yoga workshop. This workshop was a discussion of the yamas and niyamas, the moral codes in which to live by in action, thought, and word. What we think, how we act, and what we say are all bound by these codes of ethics so we can live a more thoughtful life and, in the process, create space for those around us to also live such a life.
In the Ethics of Yoga workshop we were reminded to be non-violent, truthful, to not steal, learn to live in moderation, and practice non-greediness. There are a collection of philosophical yogic texts concerned with the ultimate reality, the individual soul, and the universal essence called the Upanishads. Although not all the texts in the Upanishads discuss the yamas and niyamas directly, they all have overtones that reiterate the importance of these teachings. Many of the texts Upanishads touch on the inter-connective power line that runs through all beings on this earth. In the Chandogya Upanishad a section reads: "There is a Light that shines beyond all things on earth, beyond us all, beyond the heavens, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the Light that shines in our heart.” According to this passage, the ultimate essence of all beings, of the universe, the importance of yogic ethics births from our own heart center.
I have never been one to indulge in the touchy-feeling aspect of love. Honestly, I have always been a bit turned off from the yoga’s community chatter of all-encompassing love. I have shied away from it not truly understanding the greater context of the talk…and not knowing if all those who spout about it know the greater meaning of what they say. Yet recently I met a man who was in a coma for three weeks. When he awoke he had no understanding of his emotions: they were like reflexes that his mind couldn’t comprehend. Yet, when he saw his daughter he knew her and he knew the love he felt for her. He likened love to hunger – love is who you are and therefore cannot be separated from it.
The Chandogya Upanishad text says the ultimate light which pervades the universe lies in the heart, the first organ formed in-utero, and highlights the heart as the center of all beings. Recent research is discovering the heart is a sensory organ which receives and processes information. Rather than the brain sending signals to the heart, the brain receives signals from the heart which influence the brain’s cognitive processes. Therefore to live immersed in the ethics of yoga, in the teachings of the yamas and niyamas, we create a space for our highest light to shine. When we are jealous, steal attention or time, act from a place of ego and greediness, we block off the ability of our brain to process our heart signals.
In the yogic lifestyle one dedicates themselves to a life in which all thoughts, actions, and words are free of harming to one’s own self or another being. This is hard to do and which is why the practice of yoga is a lifetime of self-study, reflection, forgiveness, and compassion. There is a connection between what you think, how you act, and what you say. And just as that connection exists, the connection also exists between you and those who share space with you in this dynamic world.