Sutra 2.38: brahmacharya pratisthayam virya labhah
Devoted to living a balanced and moderate life (Brahmacharya), the scope of one’s life force becomes boundless. Translation and interpretation by Nischala Joy Devi
My cats are an inspiration in ease. They eat what they need, they sleep in every imaginable spot in my apartment –no nook or patch of sunlight or arm of couch has been left unexplored– and they spend a good stretch of each day bouncing off walls, chasing invisible insects, and lovingly (needily) following us around (they are sorta dog-like in that way). When trauma of any kind strikes, they rest more. They don’t eat as much until they feel safe again. They cuddle even more, creating extra comfort.
A cat’s life isn’t complicated, and I think based on the level of their brain processing, i.e., in their minds, it shouldn’t be. Our brains are different, so it doesn’t at first feel useful to try and “be like your cat!” It isn’t such an effortless process for us to remain unattached to events, past, present, and future the way they do. Maybe if we slept more, it would be! I don’t know about that, but what I do know (on a laywoman’s level of understanding) is that the same evolutionary developments that give us the ability to analyze and attach, give us the ability to make conscious choices about what and how we analyze and attach (or don’t).
I could choose to live, more or less, like my cats: Sleep enough, eat enough, love enough, work/play enough. Leave well enough alone. That’s what sutra 2.38 suggests will afford one vitality and vibrance. And with practice, that choice grows easier (and more cat-like).
It’s automatic for a cat. It’s not so automatic for us in our modern civilizations. Why it’s not varies for each of us, and so how we come to make choices that keep us balanced, tipped neither into deprivation nor into excess won’t necessarily look the same. Balance, however, tends to have a recognizable sheen to it, no matter your constitution or particularities. It’s the sweet spot of being. It usually makes me sigh or smile inexplicably. The more I start to recognize balance in myself, the easier it grows (very gradually) to pause, listen, and decide: will one more sun salutation make me feel just as good? Or too flighty or over-tired? Will this feeling of neither hunger nor fullness stay with me if I eat that last bite on my plate or will that be too much? And when I’m not sure, I test it out. Trial and error (+observation and integration) = learning! (And out of wisdom balance grows.)
Try it for a day: pause to reflect after every activity (eating, conversing, working, playing, etc), and observe (maybe even jot down in a journal) how you feel. Steady? Wobbly? Calm? Energized? Easy? Stressed? Light? Heavy? Something more subtle or particular to you? Was there something in that activity that you can attribute to your current state? If this feeling isn’t desirable, can you avoid the cause next time around? If the feeling is great, can you incorporate regular practice of whatever led you here?
Find your vibrance day by day with this little mantra: notice, process, practice. And let that be enough!
Hari om, om tat sat!
Experience your true self and bring it into every moment of your living!
The Yoga Sutras are a classical text on yoga–a guidebook of sorts.
Each week, 216 teacher Esther Palmer dives into one of the sutras and we let it take us where it takes us.