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Is Living by the Yamas & Niyamas Keeping Me Small?

Woke up at 4am this morning, unable to go back to sleep. This isn't unusual lately. There is so much anxiety and unknown in the world and within my own little existence right now.

I tried reading a few pages of my current book, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, which is fantastic but uncomfortably thought-provoking. It's forcing me to contend with how I live and how it is so different from how I used to live, how I used to be. I feel like I've drifted so far from who I really am (or used to be?) and I'm feeling genuine grief for that former self. But am I just romanticizing my younger, freer self? The me that was strong, independent, hard-working, adventurous, hungry, and fun, but also very untethered, uncommitted, unconnected, irresponsible, and often careless.

As I come up on the end of my first cycle of living by the Yamas and Niyamas, it occurs to me that most of these rules are contributing to keeping me quiet and small. They are helping me to be more compassionate and good, but maybe also making me into more of a weakling pushover than I've already become. And since so many of my monthly challenges are exercised on my dominant husband, being the person I'm around most--especially in fucking quarantine--am I just feeding him more and more power over myself as I try to avoid things like inflicting harm and living in states of contentment, purity, and surrender?

I wanted to live a richer, more examined life by doing this project, but is this path actually keeping me down? Nearly all of the precepts are work for and on the individual level, but don't at all encourage individuality itself, as with most religions and belief systems. And of course these guidelines were meant for the (male) aesthetics, living a life of poverty and isolation, removed from society; they were never intended to be followed by a modern woman, living in a very modern era, with a maybe not-so-modern husband. Although the basic values of the Yamas and Niyamas at their core could be considered universal, their application, both individually and as a complete belief and practice system, maybe aren't universal at all. Maybe they are really only for the few dozen mangey-haired, skinny old guys in loin cloths hanging out in mountain caves (and some tourist hotspots) in India.

I am already too nice by some people's standards. I am definitely non-confrontational and empathetic. I try to be a good and better person every single day of my life. What I need to be practicing more of is: assertiveness; standing my ground; insisting; demanding more/better/different from the people closest to me. I have always been a peacekeeper, and although it has allowed me to avoid drama and arguments, it has also left me unsatisfied with other people and my relationships with them.

Back to Doyle's book.

It's about her realization that she wasn't living her authentic self and her process of reclaiming that true self and asserting it. She made incredibly hard decisions to leave her (cheating) husband and the domestic structure she'd built with him for their family. She pursued a love story with a partner better suited to her, that she was wildly passionate about and with whom she could be wildly herself. It happened to be a woman.

Her story is invigorating, but also makes me nervous, because I can't help but wonder if the the book I'm meant to write at the end of this little project will be the opposite story--one of a woman who had almost entirely lost herself over the past 15 years and then snuffed out what remained by practicing ancient rules that instructed her to be so small and quiet that no one could find her anymore.

Including herself.


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