The Yamas of Caring for Others for Social Balance

Via | Sid Jordan | April 8th 2020

Paradoxically, caring for one’s self invariably means caring for others as well.  It is a part of our human nature to care for one another. To neglect caring for ourselves is to neglect being able to properly care for others.  Our individual mental and emotional well-being is inextricably intertwined with our collective well-being. Thus we need a set of guidelines that supports this interconnectedness of balancing care of self and others.  In the practice of Yoga, this set of practical guidelines is Yama (care of others) and Niyama (care of self), which promotes our common welfare according to time, place and person.

These guidelines escape the dogmatic dictates of “never think, say, or do this” or “always think, say, or do that”.   This is illustrated in the yama called “ahimsa”, which supports not consciously harming anyone by thought, word or action yet also recommends taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and others when threatened.  This is especially helpful when you need to tell people to maintain social distance during the coronavirus threat.

The yama called “satya” espouses that to speak the truth benevolently requires different thinking and wording depending on the people, place and timing for those involved.  An example would be the way you choose to share the news of an illness or death in the family for different people based on age and closeness to the ill or deceased.  This discriminating use of the truth serves everyone. While we need to eventually embrace the “whole truth” half-truths may help protect the innocent until the full truth finds its appropriate moment for revelation. 

Asteya”, non-stealing, can mean being attentively present when others are sharing their story.   Active listening is extremely important in this time of crisis so as not to take the speaker’s valuable time and discount their feelings.  “Not listening” may be the largest example of stealing with which humanity could be charged. While not taking other’s personal property is the most material form of asteya, this principle involves not even having the thought of stealing. 

The yama, “aparigraha” or living simply means taking and utilizing only what you need so as not to deprive others.  This principal is especially important now when shopping for groceries and supplies. More broadly, this is an ecological principle that encourages the most efficient utilization of all natural resources, especially when supplies are threatened.       

The last yama, “Bhramacayra”, is applied in the ideation of “the actor, the act, the recipient of the act and the results of the action” are all part of a unified field, Oneness or Divine Presence, depending upon your cosmology.   From another angle “to give is to receive and to receive in to give.”  

Thus in caring for others we care for ourselves.  In the next blog we will explore the niyamas of caring for the self for personal balance.

 Sid Jordan

Prama Institute Staff

About The Author

Dr. Sid Jordan (Acarya Vishvamitra) has combined a career as a licensed clinical psychologist and meditation teacher since 1971.  As a clinical psychologist, he taught individual, group and family psychotherapy, meditation, yoga and community psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the Medical University of S. C. from 1969-93.  During this period he also served for five years as director of the Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Services at the Franklin C. Fetter  Neighborhood Health Care Center in Charleston S. C.

In 1994 he moved to Asheville NC to develop an eco-village to support the service community of Ananda Girisuta (Blissful Daughter of the Mountain) on the French Broad River near Marshall, NC.  In 1997 he trained to be an Ananda Marga Family Acarya (Yoga Teacher) in India committed to giving personal instructions in meditation and yoga.  He currently serves as president of the Ananda Marga Gurukula Inc. Board in the US, supporting Neohumanist Education k-colleges worldwide. He is Director of the Prama Institute on the Ananda Girisuta property where he helps direct programing and teaches yoga psychology and spiritual practices.  At the Prama Wellness Center he teaches yoga therapy and stress management to individuals and groups.   He continues to offer his 40 years of experience and teaching of yoga psychology, philosophy and practices to audiences worldwide.

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