Please indulge me. Today would be my Mum’s one hundredth birthday, if she were still alive. I couldn’t think how I could ‘celebrate’ her birthday, but I am acknowledging it in various ways.
Among my Mum’s many talents was the ability to get flowers to stay where she put them in the vase. She ALWAYS had cut flowers in the house – when I was a child, and even when she was very old, and all the times in between. So I have flowers in a vase today, in her memory. Unfortunately,I haven’t learnt to speak ‘flower’ so the flowers don’t do as I ask them, as they did for my mum. But they’re beautiful anyway.
My mother was artistic and creative. As well as making beautiful flower arrangements, she also painted and sewed and did beautiful embroidery. She was also very practical – she always found practical solutions to problems that arose.
But they are not the reasons I’m honouring her today. She didn’t realise it, but she was in fact a yogi. Although I’m sure she knew nothing of yogic philosophy, she -inadvertently – lived by the Yamas and Niyamas.
Ahimsa – non-harmfulness. In spite of working hard all her life, my mother was very gentle and caring. She helped people. She helped people she knew and people she didn’t know. She was generous with her time, her talents and her money (not that there was ever much of that commodity). At school concert times, my mother would make the costumes for half the kids in the school. She would make and mend clothes for people. She would take shy or sick people “under her wing” and look out for them.
Satya – truth. I doubt that my Mum ever said a false word. I know this is a big statement, but in days gone by, your word was your bond. This meant that, for my Mum and her generation, lying just didn’t happen. My mother expected everyone to tell the truth – why would you lie and cheat?
Asteya – honesty. Mum joined the women’s army during the second world war. Part of the process of being promoted to ‘officer’ involved an interview. One of the questions they asked this twenty year-old was “What is your life’s philosophy?” Her reply was “Honesty”. She would never claim false tax deductions; she would never take something that wasn’t hers. She would never “embroider” the truth in order to make herself look better.
Brahmacharya – not being controlled by the senses. Being brought up poor in a little country town during the Great Depression did not lend itself to indulging the senses. Although in later life my parents’ financial situation was greatly improved, those patterns of their early years stayed with them. The closest my parents got to indulging their senses was a square of chocolate with their nightly game of Scrabble – at which my mother excelled. Even in her nineties, this woman who had left school aged 14 to help feed her family would ALWAYS win at Scrabble, beating her university-educated grandchildren.
Aparigraha – non-possessiveness. Well, my Mum was the direct opposite of possessive. She’d have given the shirt off her back if there was someone needing it. So UNpossessive was she, that when she died, it took us only two days to sort through her things and get the house ready to be sold. (I know of some people for whom this process has taken many months, their parents had accumulated so much “stuff”).
Saucha – purity, cleanliness. Oh boy!That sure is my Mum. As a kid I used to complain that it was like living in a hospital – everything had to be so clean! Not only the house, but our clothes and shoes; we had to clean our school shoes EVERY morning with boot polish! In spite of never having much money, my Mum always looked a million dollars, and made sure we were all “turned out’ well too.
Santosha – inner peace. Well, how can anyone know how anyone else feels internally? I just hope that my Mum was at peace with herself – she certainly seemed happy with the life she lived.
Tapasya – self-discipline. I think that the austerity in which she was brought up, followed by several years of war, followed by years of raising a family on a shoe-string budget, imposes and teaches self-discipline.
Swadhyaya – study and self-study. Mum was a great reader. Unfortunately, in spite of her many skills and talents, her great beauty and extroverted nature, she was deficient in self-confidence, always aware of her low level of formal schooling. May be that was why she read so much.
Ishwara Pranidhana – gratitude. Here, too, my Mum was yogic. She was grateful for her life, grateful that she met and married my wonderful Dad, and grateful that she lived in this great country.
Mum, I hope I have done you justice. You have raised a family and benefitted many people, based on your sound principles, without ever knowing that they are the principles on which yoga is based. I believe they are the principles on which Christianity and all the major religions are based.
I feel that if we all lived by these principles, there would be no inter-relationship issues: no prejudice, no hate crimes and no wars.
Yoga is ALL about the mind. When we live by these principles, we can all attain happiness and peace of mind. What more do we want from life?