The the first limb of yoga, the Yamas (ethics/restraints) contains the idea of Brahmacharya, which translates into non-excessiveness. Most conservatively translated, this refers to sexual chastity. But for those of us who are what the yogis call householders (the most of us), it can be anything that is used excessively as a crutch or anything habits that drain our energy in excessive ways. For many people, this can be drugs, alcohol, or food, but it can also be an addiction to accomplishment or feeling busy.
To take a slightly different angle on the topic, when we fill or lives with certain kinds of excess, we might ask ourselves what gap this excess is covering over. This is pretty old-school Freudian Cathexis--the idea that we attach (cathect) onto an object that we think will make us feel better, but which doesn't address the underlying need.
In the photo above, you'll see one of my objects of cathexis--fancy shoes. These are orange suede highheels which I bought in graduate school, which I've worn twice, and which also happen to be too small. I believe that I have worn them exactly once. I believe I purchased the shoes in 2005, which means they have lived in 5 different apartments with me. They have spent more time in Uhaul trucks than on my feet.
If these were shoes that I owned for sentimental reasons, that might be okay. But they're not. They are one of many pairs with a similar life story. In addition to being wasteful, this excessive shopping also drains me. The past me enjoyed buying the shoes, but present me has to deal with financial stress and paying off debt.
I am preparing to move again. And as I start to think about packing up the house, I am faced with all my excessive shopping. I asked myself, what is this doing for me? When do I shop? What feeling am I trying to achieve?
The answer is "time." When very stressed and overworked, I feel exhausted and deserving--"I should have a treat," I tell myself. But this "treat" is not the treat I need. Instead, the excessiveness of my shopping causes me to have to work more--grading AP exams in the summer, considering summer teaching, etc. Instead, I'd be better served by scheduling time to relax, even, and especially when very busy.
This is the upshot of considering Brahmacharya--it's not all about getting rid of habits that drain you; it's also about asking what would sustain you.
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