Yama is the first stage. Yama means control and, for my purposes in this article, I will take this in the direction of embracing the earth, nature, and the world we live in from the standpoint of spiritual consciousness. "Control" then means, for this purpose, "realization" or complete oneness or understanding of the natural laws that govern this earth plane -- as seen from "above."
Patanjali describes five specific attitudes and powers which characterize such a realization. "Ahimsa" (made famous in the west by Mahatma Gandhi) means to see all beings, all creatures, and all life is our own. In this realization all impulse towards anger, violence, or judgment have vanished.
As Swami Kriyananda writes, “Non-injury embraces our oneness and is sustained by it. Harmfulness on the other hand, incites endless opposition.” We should contemplate this truth and make it more and more our own realization. He suggests this affirmation to use: "I send out the rain of blessings to all, that love be nourished in all hearts."
Satya or truthfulness is the second attitude whose power is the power of our word to be made manifest from only our statement of it. Satya goes beyond stating mere facts, for truth is of the highest order and beneficial always. It means facing reality AS IT IS and then, with complete acceptance, courageously and creatively making the effort to change it if that is appropriate.
Satya includes Ahimsa because looking for the good in all things helps us to live more in the eternal now – the ultimate truth of reality.
Try these for contemplation and affirmation of Satya: "Truthfulness means seeing things as they really are, but then looking more deeply for ways to improve those realities." Affirm: "What is simply is. Fearlessly therefore I accept the truth, knowing that, at the heart of everything, goodness can be found."
Asteya is the next attitude and refers to the absence of greed, envy, or desire for that which isn't yours. In a sense this is a variation of Satya for it recognizes self-honestly that an object, recognition, or circumstance does not presently exist in respect to oneself or around you. Non-greed is the term often used and its corollary on the second stage of the 8-Fold Path is the obvious one of contentment. As we perfect our realization of this consciousness we find all things that we need for our sustenance are drawn to us with no obvious effort on our part.
Contemplate then this truth: "Desirelessness means spurning non essentials in order that we may give our whole attention to what is lasting and true: God. We can think of renunciation as an investment of our energies for a long-term profit." Affirm: "I spurn the tempting magic of this world with its rainbow bubbles, ever ready to burst. See where I fly: high above the mountains. I am free. I am free."
Brahmacharya is the next related attitude. It generally is seen to refer to celibacy or sexual self-control but the term can be translated as “flowing with Brahma” and, in general, it also refers to all five senses. Too-frequent indulgence (mental as well as physical) in avid sensory pleasures gradually robs us of our life force and capacity for enjoyment. In the process our physical and mental health is compromised as nervousness, anxiety, depression alternates with the highs of anticipatory, imagined or indulged pleasures.
Simple experiments with truth reveal that moderation actually increases enjoyment and presence of mind during indulgence brings great calmness and a more lasting satisfaction. When we lose “ourselves” in pleasure we come out of it slightly embarrassed and our nerves and nervous system on edge and ourselves slightly uneasy. I like to put it this way (echoing aspects of Gyana yoga practices and tantra): “You have to be present to win.”
When we flow with the energy of prana and the awareness of the Self we are constantly refreshed and energized. We experience great health, vitality, and, indeed, memory "like an elephant!" When we give our power away by seeking fulfillment in objects and experiences we demean the Self which is Bliss itself. A part of ourselves is darkened and confused and in the end we lose our physical and mental vitality.
Swami Kriyananda writes: “If a lake is made to feed into too many streams it will soon become drained. The sensualist imagines that by giving up pleasures he would renounce happiness. But the more one lives in the inner Self, the more one glows with happiness, good health, and a radiance of well-being and inner freedom.” He offers us this affirmation: “I am strong in myself. I am complete in myself. All that I see await discovery within my inner being.”
Aparigraha, or, non-acceptance is the last of the five attitudes and practices which manifest through the earth center expressing realization of yama. Whereas non-greed relates to our attitudes towards things that we do not have, non-acceptance means non-attachment and non-identification with those things which are ours to steward. Most notably: our own bodies and ego. By extension, too, all objects in our possession, including skills and talents. The siddhi that arises from complete non-identification in this way is the remembrance of past lives. Thus the God’s eye perspective of this earth plane at last ascends beyond the current incarnation and backwards through time to view many lives.
Each of these vibrational aspects of yama can be practiced in the here and now wherever we are on the scale of perfect realization. Kindness, truthfulness, contentment, moderation, and even-mindedness are qualities everyone can experiment with and improve upon right now.
When you meditate, imagine your body is like the earth. In its size and weight, alone, it is immovable and fixed. In this, visualize that you are immovable in your commitment to right attitude and right action. Now visualize the earth as if from outer space. Gain the God’s eye view of our sensory and material attachments, revealing their smallness, their fleeting gains, and their inexorable erosion of our health and happiness for what they are: a part of an unending flux of opposites which in sum total leave us unsatisfied and weak. Be strong in your Self. Be free. Be blissful.