Speaking of giving less fucks…
The yamas and the niyamas are ethical principles of yogic philosophy described in the first two limbs of Patanjali’s eightfold path. They are moral codes suggesting restraints (yamas) and “things to do” (niyamas) to live a just, meaningful life. I am sure that there are analogous principles or aphorisms in other traditions (Ten Commandments, “do unto others…,” never eat bagel bites straight out of the oven, et al.). One of the five yamas, which principally focus on our interactions with others and the world beyond us, involves the concept of Brahmacharya. According to Patanjali, this yama is focused on the clear and deliberate use of energy. Acknowledging the profound power of sexual energy, it was originally applied to celibacy, but can be much more widely applied to deliberate use of energy and resources (or non-excess).
“Anything that weakens you spiritually, emotionally, or physically; reject it as poison.” Swami Vivekananda.
As Swami Vivekananda suggests above, we only have so much energy. Brahmacharya pertains to a use of that time and energy in ways that are nourishing to us. So that may mean not eating a whole bag of Samoa Girl Scout Cookies for dinner (shout out Troop Beverly Hills, peak Shelley Long!). It may also mean not participating in relationships that do not feed you emotionally, not volunteering to host your book club again, or saying no to a party invitation because you are not feeling up for socializing.
Using the example of saying what you need in the context of a party invitation...what can sometimes happen is that folks just choose to avoid the invitation and ghost away or use very ambiguous, non-committal language. This can be confusing to the recipient and selfish (keeps the “sayers” options open, and keeps the “hearer” guessing at what someone wants/needs/how they feel) and a remarkably tedious and energy draining way to communicate! As well, it discredits both parties as it assumes that someone cannot handle your feelings/wishes/setting boundaries. It can be on the surface passed off a as a “way to spare” someone’s feelings, but is often just a way for the “sayer” to avoid whatever negative emotion they may have about POSSIBLY DISAPPOINTING someone or missing out on something! We can handle it! You can handle it! We are made to bear difficulty. Sitting in discomfort (whatever that may be) is a skill that can be practiced, and is entirely possible! Also emotional discomfort is temporary. And emotions are just sensations…we can trust ourselves to just experience our feelings, not get caught in stories around them (tricky!), and move on, just like waves they will pass (the “good” and “bad” feelings, which is both heartening and dismaying to consider).
Being conscious of your needs and open and clear in sharing them, are benevolent acts that preserve valuable energy. By being direct about communicating how you feel and what you need and having clear boundaries around those things you both respect another person’s time and energy and also their emotional ability to cope with whatever you tell them (they can handle their shit...not yours to manage) AND also frees your mind up for not having to stress about how you are going to “get out” of that thing that you did not want to do anyways. All of which are soul and relationship feeding, and all of which preserve precious energy for what matters to you.
For me this is particularly relevant in my interpersonal relationships (dating, friends, family). I care about what people think about me; go ahead and analyze it on any level that you want, it is just a part of me (the need for love and acceptance is a part of most people; if we did not care at all what others thought of us, we may be diagnosed with psychopathy). I am aware of my desire for acceptance and am usually conscious of the ways in which it manifests for me and continue to remain curious when things come up that might rub up against my “wanting to be liked.” Examples of this include feeling as though I am in charge of” others’ emotional experiences, spending time and energy doing things for others even when we only have a surface relationship, organizing social events, feeling responsible for others’ physical safety and so on. When things come up, I try to just notice what is happening; my mind may whirr with possibility, “oh it is so and so’s birthday on Thursday, I should bake a cake, organize a dinner, and oh yeah, write a birthday rap about them (one of my specialities!) I can just notice that my mind is doing that and just continue whirring. Or I can notice it, and ask myself “why might you do those things? would that be fun for you? Would that nourish you right now? Do they even want those things (step 1)?” and so on. This is an opportunity to both notice my mind and also ask myself if this is a good use of my energies in this immediate moment, and is this a good use of my energies in the longer run (is this relationship worth putting that much energy into or not?) And WHY am I putting that much energy into it? Do I just want someone to like me? Do I feel like that person would feel good being acknowledged? Do I feel like it is my “responsibility” to help them feel acknowledged? Does that feed me?
The most common response to this inquiry, in a situation in which the relationships IS a substantive, nourishing one, is that it is both self and other feeding. Yes, this is something that they would like, yes, I want them to like me, yes, I think it is fun to do, yes it helps me feel good to be able to “show up” for someone in that way and yes, I want them to feel acknowledged. This is discernment; giving a fuck when it matters. This is using energy in a deliberate and soul feeding way. This is brahmacharya everybody! And if I responded "no" to any of those things, or if a relationship or experience is not nourishing me, then I don't need to participate in it; nothing wrong with me, the other person, the experience, just a choice about where and how to use my resources.
So don’t f around with people or situations that don’t nourish you. You just don’t need to give a fuck! And not giving a fuck does not mean ANYTHING about you or the other person (no value judgements on either! Both of you are still lovely and whole people) It just means that you have chosen to use your energies in a different way. “You only have so many fucks to give” as Mark Manson says, so you might as well be intentional about the ways in which you use the energy and time that you have.
Compliment this writing with William James on Attention (from my beloved Brain Pickings):
Here is a link to the Mark Manson article referenced:
Yamas and Niyamas
Yoga Journal article:
Book about Yogic Philosophy (there are a zillion of varying levels of comprehensiveness and quality):
Eliade, M. (1975). Patanjali and yoga.
Molly Lannon Kenny, a remarkable person and yoga teacher. The person who first exposed me to the teaching of Patanjuli: