A five-day program to live with integrity

A five-day program to live with integrity
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on February 8, 2017

Most people live with integrity, love the world and try to be as honest as possible.

This statement requires a qualification: We do so as long as the conditions are right.

So noted Dan Ariely in his terrific book “The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty.” Ordinary people, if opportunity knocks, will be dishonest and cut corners, even if they perceive themselves as authentic and decent. 

“[I]t’s more likely that most of us need little reminders to keep ourselves on the right path,” Ariely wrote.

The Yamas of yoga can be those daily reminders.

The Five Day Yama Meditation Program

Start with one Yama per day.

Get copies of the “Yoga Sutras” and Deborah Adele’s terrific book “Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice.”

In the morning, read about the Yama of the day.  Sit in stillness, and hold a clear quartz, selenite or amethyst stone.

Afterward, journal about occasions when your behavior was less than ideal.  Also, anticipate how your ethics could be challenged in the coming day and how you will respond.

A 2015 study conducted by researchers at Rutgers University and University of Chicago, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, appears to support this approach.  The findings indicated if you ponder your own previous ethical lapses, and you are able to anticipate ethical challenges to come and consider the bad choice consequences, you will be more likely to stay on the straight and narrow.

Yamas: the guide to external morality

Day One:  Ahimsa (non-violence)

            This is the heart of yogic practice; do no harm.  Acts of violence can be nuclear or barely a whisper.

Ask yourself:  When have I reacted out of fear and assumed I was powerless? When have my words, both to others and myself, caused wounds? How heavy is my grudge and worry load?  How many people have I tried to fix? How many groups of people have I labeled “others” and barred for being different? How many of my sentences begin with “I”?

Day Two:  Satya (truthfulness)

            Yes, always speak the truth, and being real trumps being nice.  At the same time, no truth is worth creating a greater harm. Ahimsa always.

Ask yourself: How often do I lie to keep conversations going with “I know,” “I understand” “I remember,” and “I agree”?  Am I pretending to be fine when I’m not?  Have I failed to set up my boundaries so people can abuse me? How often do I silently go along with the group when I disagree? Am I buried in a cocoon of like-minded individuals so I can’t see any other way of thinking? Can I acknowledge being mistaken?  Can I say, “I don’t know”?

Day Three: Asteya (non-stealing)

            We are all petty pickpockets, snatching what belongs to others and to the world.  We are all hoarders, failing to share our personal bounty as well as our personal gifts.

Ask yourself: Have I manipulated my personal relationships to get a job that rightfully belongs to someone else? Have I intruded on others’ intimacy through adultery and even eavesdropping? Have I opened my wallet without thought and purchased items produced by exploited labor that has decimated the planet and our communal resources?  Have I failed to realize the world deserves to profit from my talents? Do I steal from my future by squandering my resources now? Have I taken credit for the work of others? Do I fail to pay attention in school and ignore all my teachers? Have I used private information people have shared with me for my own personal gain?

Day Four: Brahmacharya (restraint)

            We are perhaps the most over-indulged humans to walk the planet.  For many, waiting, saving and conserving are abominations.

Ask yourself:  Have I been able to ride the wave of sadness, discomfort and disappointment without reaching for a drink or pill?   Can I wait to see someone in person before I text incessantly or post every detail on Facebook? Is sex exercise or a real expression of intimacy? Is my life an endless pursuit of physical pleasures, or can I delay gratification in order to reach larger goals? Is working out becoming life rather than enabling a fuller life? Can I fast for one day per week?

Day Five: Aparigraha (non-attachment)

            Whenever we are reliant on anything external for our happiness, it is addiction.  Period.  This doesn’t just refer to drugs and alcohol.  It’s romantic relationships, clothes, cars, money, prestige, jobs, adventure, and excitement. Take only what you need, and don’t waste energy.

Ask yourself: If my romantic partner left me, would I fall apart?  If I lost my job, would I fall apart? If my reputation became mud, would I fall apart? If I had to live alone for the rest of my life, would I fall apart?  If my life fell apart, would I fall apart?

When your day begins after this morning meditation, wait for it. The ethical dilemmas will avalanche. They always do. You didn’t notice because they whisper.

Remember.  This five-day program is a crash course.  Continue your morning study time daily so the higher principles of living create a mindful life.


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