The fourth Yama, Brahmacharya, is often translated as abstinence. Abstinence is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as the practice of abstaining from something the practice of not doing or having something that is wanted or enjoyable. This begs the question, what is the benefit of staying away from something that brings me joy?

When we add another popular translation of Brahmacharya, skillful use of energy, into the picture it helps us answer this question. It's may be less about totally abstaining from things that bring us joy and more about bringing mindfulness to our actions so we don't get confused about what brings us true joy. And caught up in actions that do not. So if I'm practicing Brahmacharya, I'm not mindlessly eating a quart of ice cream, mistakenly thinking it will bring me joy. Instead maybe I'm mindfully taking a walk out in nature? Maybe this would be more skillful use of my energy?

Brahmacharya can be an invitation to pay attention enough to know what actions in our lives bring us true joy. What does true joy look like? This question is a good place to start exploring...