Brahmacharya: A Half Dozen Areas of Excess

The evolution of spirit is ever-revolving. Like the oar that glides the kayak gently across the lake’s surface, our inner lives alternate between glimpses of bright sunshine in the thin air and the murky chill of underwater. While we’re submerged, our sight is limited, but when we rise we gain the perspective to see where we are going and where we have been.

A recent insight has led me to investigate patterns of attachment and overindulgence in my life. I have a tendency oscillate between interests hard and fast, deeply immersing myself for months or years and then losing interest as something else appears on the horizon. Music, writing, and communing with nature are pasttimes that I always adore, but even these have their cycles as one falls away to make room for another. When I delve so deeply into a project, it’s hard to find the balance I need to maintain and progress in other areas. As an example, I was writing voraciously for Indy Metal Vault for about four months, but when summer arrived I instantly began to feel pulled outdoors: I started a garden and scheduled five camping trips.

I have so many interests it can sometimes be overwhelming, and I’m working to eradicate the thought cycle, “I have to… (finish this library book before it’s due/write this album review before the release date/mow the lawn before it rains), and replacing it with “I want to…” It’s a small change but at the same time profound, and it helps me monitor myself for overindulgences and keeps me mindful of my motives.

I am well aware of and have previously mentioned excessive behavior in regards to food, substances, and sexuality, but I never considered that I invest myself in my hobbies to an excessive degree. For instance, I went to a music festival in Chicago even though I had a kidney infection, ignoring a clear indication that my body needed me to slow down, rest, and take better care of myself.

I recently learned while reading Yamas and Niyamas that when we take things to excess, there is always an underlying emotional disturbance or unfulfilled desire. In the example that really struck home to me, the author’s husband admits he used to glue himself to the TV when the Olympics were on, watching to an unrealistic extent because he wanted to be an athlete but lacked the motivation and determination to train. He was living vicariously and jealousy through the triumph of the Olympians onscreen.

As a therapeutic exercise, I’m going to list things I’ve overindulged in or am in danger of taking to excess, examine why these patterns have emerged, and how I can begin to create new approaches to them. There are a dozen of them, so the second half will follow at a later time.

  1. First and foremost, I’m a little obsessed with food.

Oh, delicious, satisfying, rewarding sustenance of life. I think nearly everyone has some deep-seated emotional attachment to food in one way or another. I’ve been working for the last two years to change my diet and eating habits. It’s been a long and arduous process. One of my previous food addictions was ice cream, which stems from the fact that my dad was a Schwan’s man, and ice cream reminds me of my family home and the summers I spent there with my two very close neighborhood friends. When I’m feeling anxious, depressed, or lonely, icecream is a common craving because it reminds my of warm and long, carefree days.

 

When I want to have a snack now, I stop myself and ask why I’m eating. Here are some examples of my inner dialogue:

Q: Are you bored?
A: Go read or or do something productive instead.

Q: Are you sad?
A: Go sit with and allow it — quit engaging in escapist behavior.

Q: Are you hungry?
A: Cook something delicious! Don’t cheat yourself with short-cut snack food.

All that being said, sometimes I know I’m not really hungry, but I want a little dopamine fix. Indulging in a spoonful of peanut butter or a piece of fruit is a better alternative to less healthy options, like going out or pouring myself a bourbon.

  1. Speaking of alcohol…

We live in a very boozy culture, where it is actually more acceptable to drink than to choose sobriety. My attachment to alcohol began as a way to cope with social anxiety. It deepened as I used craft beer as a way to connect to my dad; it was an interest we had in common, and I took it so far as to start homebrewing, probably to impress him, if I’m being honest with myself.

 

I had to stop drinking altogether to break my pattern of overindulgence. I’ve had one drink over the course of the past three weeks. I feel a lot better: more in control and well-hydrated for maybe the first time in my adult life. My body and brain function so much better when I’m hydrated that I feel like a completely different person. I don’t know how long this experiment with sobriety will last, but so far, I’m enjoying it.

I’ve been a little surprised at how much I don’t need alcohol as social lubricant anymore. Conversation is actually a lot easier sober, and I like myself more than I used to, so I don’t need to get drunk to express myself. I can be more open and present without a buzz. I was a little nervous about my standing karaoke date with my friend, but I sang just fine. Maybe even better than usual because I had more complete control over my vocal chords and real confidence to pull from. Being able to have a social life while sober has actually been really empowering.

  1. Cannabis: my second favorite substance (behind food!)

My first toke was when I was nineteen, married, and among a group of about ten friends who I wanted to fit in with. I didn’t catch a buzz that first time, but my husband did. It quickly became a nightly ritual for him and something for our friends to gather around. We bought a huge projection screen TV which played Adult Swim every night (I knew it was bedtime when “Captain Planet” came on), and our house was the place where everyone gathered. This is only the first attachment I created to smoking the green stuff — one of belonging to social group.

After I left my teenage marriage, I fell into a string of similarly co-dependent and unhealthy relationships. After one particularly bad breakup, pot took on a new function: a way for me to escape depression. It reminded me of the times when I was surrounded by friends, of laughter, of belonging, and I didn’t feel so alone. Gradually, it took more and more of a central role in my life. Recently, I recognized what I thought was a little harmless head-tap was actually a way for me to escape from the moment, so I’ve made an effort to have more (un)stone(d) sober days. When I succeed, I’m a lot more productive, more present for the people in my life, and better able to make progress in my personal development.

When I get the urge to smoke, I ask myself, “What are you escaping from?” Then I try my best to answer honestly and act accordingly. If that doesn’t work, my follow-up response is, It will eat your dreams. Even though I can sometimes admit to myself, “Yes this is escapist behavior, and I don’t care,” I’ll have to consider that blanking out my mind means losing my chance at dream therapy. Furthermore, thanks to Waking Life, I’m interested in developing my ability to go lucid again. I used experience lucid dreaming frequently, but stopped when I started smoking heavily.

  1. And when I get that feeling, I want sexual healing

This topic deserves its own post and will probably get one. I have been working through the shame I have around my sexuality instilled in me by school, my family and America’s Puritan-rooted culture at large, but sex is still mixed up with affection, self-worth, and acceptance for me. So far I haven’t been able to be physically intimate with a man without becoming hopelessly emotionally attached, but I have learned to be more selective about whom I sleep with. I’ve got some work to do.

One thing I can say I’ve been able to do is to accept my body the way it is. I had some dysmorphia the last year or so, because I lost 30 pounds, and I hadn’t yet related to my new physical image. Yoga and psilocybin helped me come down into my body, and I really like living here now. I give myself lots of water, exercise, sunshine, and nutritious food and have found a joy in my physical existence I never imagined was possible.

I’ve reframed “self-care” to myself as “self-romance” after reading this great post from Damn Girl, Get Your Shit Together. In addition to the lifestyle changes I’ve made, I also take detox baths, tango lessons, and myself out on dates to places like the art museum. Coming into my body and dating myself has been the beginning of relating in a healthy way to my sexuality, and I’m almost ready to introduce a partner to practice having a healthy romantic endeavor.

  1. Shop ’til you drop!

I’ve heard myself proclaim that I hate to shop, yet I handily dealt out nearly $700 purchasing a new wardrobe this month. (It was much needed. I lost two sizes over the last year and all my clothes were falling off me — not cute or professional.) Shopping tends to be an emotional rather than rational decision for me. While I’m more open than I ever have been to acting from a visceral rather than cerebral space, when it affects my bank account, it’s probably not healthy.

IMG_20180516_185527

In addition to this dynamic of avoidance and sudden splurges as therapy sessions, the convenience of Amazon means I can shop in my downtime at work. Not only is this an overindulgence, it’s also dishonest of me to use company time to buy books and kitchen accessories.

I’ve started keeping a monthly spending ledger. Even though I’ve completely blown my budget for June, I keep writing in my ledger so I will better understand where my weaknesses are. From there, I hope to awaken to these habits and realign my behavior to better suit my goals and needs.

  1. One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain. 

When I moved to Indy a little more than two years ago, it took me a long time to find a sense of belonging and community. The first place I looked was my yoga school, but yoga is a very introspective practice with only a few minutes before or after class to try and meet people — sometimes practitioners would rather be alone, and I respect that.

The second place I looked was at small music venues. I listen to a lot of genres of music, but metal shows have always been my favorite to go to. I remember going solo for the first time. I was driving, so I must have been eighteen, a high school senior, and I went to see Maltese Cross (a Columbus, Indiana-based band who sounded an awful lot like Pantera) play at the historic Crump Theatre. I felt so cool in my ass-kicking boots and short skirt (incidentally, this is also the first time I got catcalled: “Nice fuck-me boots!” but more on that some other time), and I fell in love with the rumble of heavy music and the charm of old buildings.

 

At Doomed & Stoned Fest 2017 I started to feel like I was becoming integrated into Indy’s underground music scene for the first time. I’ve been going to shows in Indy for a while, even before I moved, but I never felt like I belonged there before, more like a spectator. I had so much fun at D&SF that I wrote a review and sent it to the two sponsoring  journalism websites. Indy Metal Vault responded immediately and the rest is history.

An uplifting story, right? The problem is that anything taken to excess creates a negative behavior pattern. I became a little obsessive with my attendance to shows, consumption of merchandise (mainly vinyl), and workload at IMV. As I mentioned in the intro, I wore my health thin, and I also routinely blew my budget and forsook my personal writing. I’m never leaving the music scene entirely. I love that when I go to shows now people recognize and know me, but I need to be careful about how much time, energy, and money I’m expending.

The Vogue

I’ll probably stop forecasting my writing on Hoosier Mystic, because I’m becoming less and less predictable even to myself. It’s an odd thing to develop, but I think it means I’m more spontaneous and holding myself to fewer expectations, which is a good thing. The “I have to” mentality wasn’t serving me at all and almost led to me completely walking away from my beloved IMV, because I obligated myself to produce a certain amount of content unnecessarily. (Shout out to Senior Editor Clayton Michaels! Thanks for taking the self-induced pressure off of me at the exact right moment.)

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

Love,

JBrowne

Written by Jessie Browne
Originally published on Hoosier Mystic
Copyright 2017 CC BY-NC-SA

The photos of the Crump were taken by David Sechrest, and the others are original to me, Jessie Browne, with all rights reserved. 

*Please note that all Amazon links out are Amazon Associate links, which means I get a tiny percentage of the sale if you make a purchase after following one.

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2 thoughts on “Brahmacharya: A Half Dozen Areas of Excess

  1. I can especially relate to 3 and 5 (cannabis and shopping). I used to smoke too much and stopped for a long time. I’ve gradually returned to it but always question my motivation before partaking. In my case it’s stress relief, increased focus and health benefits. It’s not for everyone, but I urge those who have forsaken it or never tried it to experiment with different methods such as low dose edibles and vaping (which make it easier to self-titrate). I also used to do some online shopping at work but now mostly use the time to self-educate through articles, videos and podcasts saved on USB or smartphone. I used to feel guilty about “time-theft” but realized it can be a way to reclaim money/time that should be shared with employees rather than hoarded by the CEO and upper management.

    Like

    1. Thank you for sharing. Yes, being able to dose yourself properly is the key between using exogenous cannabinoids and putting yourself in a coma. 🙂 I’m getting better at that myself.

      I still feel guilty about time theft, but I’m sure I’ll get over it. I enjoy the way you fill your free time. I’ve found some really smart, insightful articles on your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

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