Life Horizons explores our current and potential future scenarios for existence. Exploration can stem from our own inner search for living a full happy and healthy life. We can also seek to discover ways and methods for a sustainable global ecology guiding us to a thriving and awakened civilization.
Our explorations will come from various fields of study such as psychology, yoga, science, religion, and technology. The progression of our human existence is built on a vast amount of study that all contribute to better physical, mental, social, and spiritual outcomes for all of us.
In my mind, the fundamental principles underlying our progress must be based on solid inner values and supportive external behaviours. It is clear that our current anthrocentric view has put our existence at risk. A more awakened perspective is necessary.
Patanjali who is considered the father of Modern Yoga described the eight aspects of a Yogic Lifestyle and called it the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The limbs are practical guides to a person’s inner personal development to achieve the harmony of the mind, the body and the spirit which leads to living a full life, and contributing to a global consciousness.
Life is a journey of self-realization through the progressive understanding of the different dimensions of who you are. When you know who you are – you have freedom. When you act in accordance to who you are – you have happiness. The Eight Limbs of Yoga are a means of exploring who you are by avoiding behaviours that produce difficulty and suffering. Embracing these promotes the state of happiness.
1- Attitudes towards others and the world around you.
There are five attitudes:
- Non-harming. Not doing harm to others in thought and in deed, but also to practice acts of kindness to other creatures and to one’s own self. Approach every situation and person with loving openness.
- Truthfulness. Living a truthful life without doing harm to others. To practice this, one must think before one speaks and consider the consequences of their actions. If the truth could harm others, it might be better to keep silent. Meditation can help calm the chatter of your mind to find inner truth.
- Non-stealing. This is not only concerned about the non-stealing of material objects but also the stealing of other’s ideas, time, and energy. Using power for selfish motives or telling someone else about confidential information when you have been entrusted is against this principle. It is about respecting others and yourself. It is also about giving kindness to others.
- Moderation. This means to move toward the essential truth or to achieve self-control and moderation. It is about not giving in to our ego’s excessive desires or taking nothing in excess. It is also about not dissipating your energies so that you have some left for yourself.
- Non-possessiveness. This is about living a life free from greed or taking only what is necessary and to not take advantage of someone or of a situation. It is about using our powers correctly and appropriately and not exploiting others. It is also about being grateful and a good steward of what has been entrusted to you – which includes taking care of yourself.
2- How you treat yourself or your attitude towards yourself.
The following are the five principles:
- Cleanliness. This about both outer and inner cleanliness. The practice of breathing, yoga poses and Yogic cleansing practices to detoxify and cleanse the physical body are necessary to achieve inner cleanliness. The mind can also be kept clean or pure through meditation. Outer cleanliness, on the other hand, means to keep a clean environment or surroundings.
- Contentment. Practicing humility, modesty and finding contentment with what you have and who you are. It is accepting life as it is – imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.
- Right Effort. This refers to keeping the body in good condition through self- disciplining the body, speech and mind. It is connecting with your determination and will.
- Study of one’s self. This involves studying one’s self, self-inquiry and self-examination and other things that can help you get to know yourself more. As your knowledge about yourself grows deeper, so is your connection to the higher power and your union with all things.
- Living with an awareness of the Divine. This encourages us to let go of our false sense of control and to connect to the Divine which gives us the sense of wholeness and sacredness.
3- Physical Poses
The physical poses in yoga are designed to free our mind and body from tension and stress. They relax, rejuvenate, and energize the body and aim to bring the body and the mind into a harmonious union. Poses should be done with comfort, ease, alertness and steadiness, achieving a balance between ease and effort.
4- Breathing Exercises
The breath is controlled through the practice of breathing exercises. The duration of inhalation, retention, and exhalation of breath aims to strengthen and cleanse the nervous system and increase a person’s source of life energy. Breathing practice also makes the mind calmer and more focused.
5- Withdrawal of the Senses
This occurs during meditation, breathing or physical poses where you are so focused and immersed on your Yoga, Meditation or Breathing Pose that you become unaware of outside situations. Your focus becomes inward and you are no longer distracted by outside events.
This is training the mind to focus without any distraction. To achieve this, you can focus your mind into an object at a time. This can also serve as a preparation for meditation.
Meditation is the practice by which there is constant observation of the mind. It means focusing the mind on one point, stilling the mind in order to perceive the Self. It is an uninterrupted flow of concentration aimed to heighten one’s awareness and oneness with the universe. It is also an important tool to achieve mental clarity and Health.
This is the ultimate goal of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. It is characterized by the state of ecstasy and the feeling that you and the universe are one. It is a state of peace and completion, awareness and compassion with detachment.
The practice of Yoga deals with not only developing the body but also covers all aspects of a person’s life. It is concerned about the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of an individual as well as their environment and relationship with other people, creatures and Nature.
In order to have a deeper love and respect towards other people, creatures, and Nature, there are five underlying principles of belief towards the external world that are needed:
- Reverence, awe, wonder of our interdependent web of existence and a feeling of unity with Nature and the connection to the Divine.
- Respect and active care for the all humans and other living beings.
- Celebration of our lives in our bodies on this beautiful earth as a joy and a privilege.
- Realism – acceptance that the external world exists independently of human consciousness or perception.
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person that is shown through social justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
The United Nations developed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in an attempt to frame the big issues that challenge us externally. These can be grouped into 5 themes:
- Basic Needs
- Climate Change
- Natural Capital
There is lots of opportunity for everyone to contribute to these goals either as individuals or groups and communities. By blending the Inner Values and External Behaviours, we can all begin a better journey towards happier lives and a connection with Nature and the Divine.