Austin is back and this time he's working us toward the crux of self-care by creating an understanding around the qualities that create suffering in the human condition. This inspiring installment of Yoga Living Project is completed with a quick field guide to help you navigate these concepts in your daily life to keep your yoga-off-the-mat strong and rooted in compassion. Email
Coming Out Of The Woods: 6 Things to Embrace for Your Own Self-Care
For this month’s studio theme at Cambio we are talking about self-care which is growing ever more important in the general zeitgeist and is a mainstay in wellness conversations but let’s look at the way we can practice self care through in an unconventional way. What I mean to say is that sometimes we are so busy focusing on what to do for self care we increase the blindspots around what we are doing to cause the need for self care in the first place. That’s why I want to take this opportunity to talk about the 7 deadly sins, their yogic counterpart and how we can view these concepts through fresh eyes to make sure we are doing our best to avoid the destructive powers behind our thoughts, words and actions.
Let’s begin by looking first at what most of us are so accustomed to that we have all but lost the inherent meaning of the 7 deadly sins:
Pretty familiar and straightforward and without thinking about it too deeply we can move right along without question, the seven deadly sins have their yogic companion, or at least we can stretch the implied meaning to correlate the two in an astoundingly insightful way, especially in terms of how they relate to self-care. So below are listed common and well known impediments to spiritual progress that appear in many traditional Eastern texts:
So the way I see these concepts connecting gave me a good look into how well I didn’t know the 7 deadly sins in the first place and gave me a new light to see just how easy it is to slip into the trap of not knowing when they are taking hold of your life. So let us take a look at the comparison of the two and see just why they pose such a detriment to our wellness and ability to thrive in a self-care type of lifestyle.
- Pride as Ignorance
Pride is the root of all sin and yet is a tricky one to pin down because pride can also be a good thing, but the description of when man believes himself to be the doer of grace and not recognize that it is in fact God or higher power that you recognize doing those acts, hubris has overcome humility and pride is categorized as sinful. In this case man suffers from none other than a plain old case of ignorance. In the yogic philosophy, ignorance is best defined by not being able to distinguish the difference between the seer and the seen. For those of you new to this concept, just know that in yoga there is a belief that there is an egocentric aspect to yourself (sometimes known as the small “s” self) and then the aspect of yourself that is connected to the divine (sometimes referred to as the big “S” Self). So this diad of self vs. Self is simply what, in the west, has been reduced to pride.
Lust is straightforward or so one would think until one asks the question: “why is lust a sin?” Desire is certainly not in and of itself harmful but when that desire burns at the heat of a thousand dying suns it does become something greater, and this evolved weightier desire becoming lust has side effects that go with it that wreak all sorts of havoc. Lust can be a way for us to begin the downward spiral toward toxicity of obsession and possession. The type of intoxication that lust leads to can cause us to do all sorts of awful and horrible things that we might not otherwise do. To put it plainly, when we are lustful we are not in our right mind and the lack of self-control we are capable of can be limitless. When we covet that which is unattainable we lose our inner peace.
- Greed & Gluttony
I lump these two together as they are relatively similar. Gluttony in the context of some Christian religions, according to some sources, is “considered a sin if the excessive desire for food causes it to be withheld from the needy”, so to me this is just a variety of greed. Of course, greed will never be of the stuff that leads to true health and happiness; it is no secret that there are just as many miserable rich people as anyone else in the world. In fact, study after study show how poor populations in developing countries have a much higher index of average happiness. Greed tends to only lead to more, and more only leads to self dilution and suffering.
- Anger as Wrath
Wrath is a type of anger that also has the toxic ingredient of revenge mixed in with it, but I ask, isn’t that what all anger is stemming from...sense of ill-dignified righteousness that seeks to level off some injustice? Don’t get me wrong, anger is important as an emotion and has useful purposes for us, especially in the context of our own spiritual progress but it is a thin, slippery line between that type of anger and the type that we hold on to and can eat us up from the inside out. As the Buddha once said, “anger is a cup of poison we pour for another but end up drinking ourselves.”
- Jealousy as Envy
Jealousy and envy are two wings of the same bird but both just slightly different. As Homer Simpson best explained it, “Jealousy is when you worry someone will take what you have, envy is wanting what someone else has.” Either way this mindset is known as the scarcity mindset and is an incredibly lonely and desperate place to live. Rather than wanting what others have we must strive to find contentment in our own lot in life. This doesn’t mean we don’t work to better ourselves but not based on the position of another and false comparisons. Conversely to constantly worry about having things taken away from you is the basis of suffering. Sure no one wants to lose the things they cherish and have worked so hard to acquire but in the end we lose everything anyway and to deny this is to deny the inevitable.
- Fear as Sloth
The reason I have coupled these is because sloth as a sin is defined by those who are so scared of effort or losing the comforts of their life that they do nothing. At the height of being gripped by fear we are designed by our very own biology to freeze and it is at these moments we are frozen unable to do anything about anything whatsoever. Another detriment of fear/slothfulness is the onset of imposter syndrome, in which one doubts the validity of their own accomplishments and fears being outed as a fraud. This syndrome, once set in, can make us all but lose the ability to act due to crippling self-doubt.
There are many ways to seek guidance in overcoming sins and these obstacles to spiritual growth, the most common of which is to open up to grace but below I’ve listed a few practical approaches for each of these issues and make sure we are open to grace.
Quick field guide to subdue the seven deadly sins:
- Pride- stay humble, realize you don’t know everything, never will and you don’t need to. Let that shit go.
- Lust- practice non-attachment; recognize your desire and realize you are not your desire, it too shall pass and measure it’s intensity. If it is dominating your mind seek professional guidance, if it is distracting go busy yourself with something positive.
- Greed (and gluttony) - practice charity, as Sinatra said, “if you own something and you can’t give it away then you don’t own it, it owns you”.
- Anger- slow your roll, remember we are all connected, when you hurt another, even if by harboring ill will, you are only ultimately doing so to yourself.
- Jealousy/envy- practice random acts of kindness and sincerely celebrate others success.
- Sloth/ fear- focus on love and trust even if you have to manufacture the emotion, studies show the brain is easily tricked and doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagination, if you focus hard enough on a thing the chemical reaction can happen even without the actual literal or physical stimulus (this goes for bad thing too). Repeat the affirmation: “I am enough, I am complete, and I am whole.”
They go low, you go high
Obviously there is no panacea for the crux of all of humankind’s shortcomings but one effective notion to keep in mind to any adversity is to keep up with integrity. Integrity is more than just doing what you say you will do, it is doing and saying what you will be able to rest assured that you won’t regret. When we do the right thing, being kind and compassionate, we give ourselves the gift of being able to sleep at night. Nothing is as much a practice of self care as a clear conscious. This won’t change that people will do bad things and sometimes those bad things might happen to you but when we practice integrity at full mast it is a practice in remembering that when others go low, we go high.