|photo courtesty of Elsa Mora's Blog|
brahmacharya (moderation) in its strictest definition is a vow of celibacy or the restraining from all sexual activity in body, thought and word however its broader definition means to honor and respect the universal human limit/capacity, the limits of consuming/doing, a non-grasping attitude toward all activities. it is hard to practice moderation in a culture based on extremes where quickness and speed and mass accumulation of money and of things (especially “new” things) are valued. when we feel empty inside or spiritually empty we try to fill ourselves up with money, food, relationship, sex, TV. we can even become addicted/attached to filling ourselves up with things that are “good” for us too. anything that is outside of self can become a vehicle to which we become attached or on which we rely to feel good or “disconnect” from inside of ourselves. whenever we do this it means we are bolting and running away from ourselves. abandoning our poor little selves on a street curb somewhere while we jump in a fast shiny red corvette in a relentless pursuit to “feel better” by escaping our bodies, our minds - our own shit.
as Chogyam Trungpa says “We have a fear of facing ourselves. That is the obstacle. Experiencing the innermost core of our existence is very embarrassing to a lot of people. A lot of people turn to something that they hope will liberate them without their having to face themselves. That is impossible. We can't do that. We have to be honest with ourselves. We have to see our gut, our excrement, our most undesirable parts. We have to see them. That is the foundation of warriorship, basically speaking. Whatever is there, we have to face it, we have to look at it, study it, work with it and practice meditation with it.”
it's hard to face our shit. so instead, we try to feel high and happy (sex, food, shopping) without ever being with ourselves. we numb ourselves from the pain because we think that if we looked at - truly looked at - our past hurts, failures, mistakes, unconscious behaviors, that we would internally combust. but, as Geneen Roth points out in her book Lost and Found, the thing about numbing is... we can't selectively numb. we can't just numb out the bad stuff. in numbing ourselves we numb out the good stuff too so that we don't actually ever get to fully have what we have. for example, have you ever eaten an entire bag of chips without ever letting yourself fully taste just one chip? tasted the salt, the oil, smelled its smell, licked it, felt the texture on your tongue?
the other thing about moderation is that we can never get enough of what we didn’t want in the first place. i can’t practice moderation with food if i believe that a piece of chocolate cake will bring me freedom, self-love and self-acceptance. the piece of chocolate cake can never do that for me, even if i ate the ENTIRE cake i still wouldn’t be any happier… in fact, i would be more unhappy and in physical pain. moderation is difficult, yes, but moderation is impossible when we believe that something outside of ourselves will bring us true peace and happiness. moderation is difficult for me because i often forget that the only way past my issues is to face them head-on and go through them myself (not around them, over them or flying past them via the vehicle to which I am attached.)
the good thing about moderation is that it's also good to be moderate about moderation. as Saint Augustine noted in the quote in the title of this post, it's easier to completely abstain from something than it is to learn moderation with it. but since we are human beings and not ethereal angels, it's impossible to abstain from life. living life and enjoying life requires that we be present in life and feel.
we'll never be perfect. moderation and learning balance is an art form. in france they call it l'équilibre (lay-kee-lee-bray). isn't that beautiful? l'équilibre is a daily practice of constant tweaking, giving and taking. it doesn't happen overnight and it's difficult, which is why we need to be ever so patient and ever so kind to ourselves as we learn it. it is not something, in our culture, that is taught. in fact, the opposite of moderation is hardwired into our brains through media from birth. so our job is to feel all of life, to try as best as we can to pay attention to ourselves and to our actions, to enjoy what we are doing when we are doing it, and to realize that often times just being with ourselves and tuning into our breath will provide us with what it is we actually wanted - which is to be there for and with ourselves.