Druidry and the Yamas

by Maria Ede-Weaving.

One of the joys of Druidry, particularly the kind that is practiced within OBOD, is that it allows room to explore the approaches of other paths. Many within OBOD blend their Druidry with other practices; Christians and Wiccans have found a home here and through OBOD’s involvement with the One Tree Gatherings, fruitful links with the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist communities have been forged in a spirit of celebrating all that connects these paths rather than the things that divide them.

While for many Druidry as a single path is complete in itself, for others, hybrid spiritual practices enrich their understanding of self and life, and this, to me, is a positive expression of Druidry’s inherent openness and inclusivity- something to be immensely proud of. There is room for all and the knowledge gained and shared through the many experiences of these myriad individual paths can only enrich the understanding of Druidry for all.

My path has many influences. I came to Druidry via Wicca but I have also practiced Yoga for many years and of late have been deepening my practice through Yoga teacher training. This has required me to explore more deeply the philosophy of Yoga and it has been interesting to discover how much of this has a great deal in common with Druidry.

For many in the West, when we speak of Yoga, most immediately think of the Postures, or Asana, but the Eight Limbs of Yoga are interconnected spiritual practices and approaches of which the Asana are only one part. One of the branches of Yoga that I have been exploring in-depth of late are the Yamas – guiding principles that deal with the way we interact with others and the world – and I have been delighted by how much these resonate with a Druidic approach.

There are five Yamas: Ahimsa – roughly translated as non-harm; Satya – truthfulness; Asteya –non-stealing; Aparigraha – non-possessiveness and non-attachment and Brahmacharya, traditionally understood as celibacy but more commonly interpreted in the modern western world as moderation in our actions. These are not viewed as commandments but rather as approaches that enable us to live with a greater self-awareness, peace and contentment.

In both Druidry and Yoga, there is an understanding that all things contain a spark of the Divine, that all life is interconnected and that because of this we strive to do as little harm as possible.  In Druidry, showing compassion and wishing to protect and honour all life forms is rooted in the recognition of this underlying unity of creation. Ahimsa encourages us to express compassion and to act with care and consideration for both self and others – this works on a personal level in our relationships with ourselves and with those close to us but also in our desire to protect our planet and build sustainable and supportive communities.

Druidry also places great importance on truth and fairness. The second Yama, Satya, encourages us to examine how we live with integrity: being honest with ourselves and others; recognising the power of words to both heal and harm and therefore choosing our words with care; knowing when to stay silent and when to speak. These each have resonance in the practice of Druidry and relate to Druid notions of Justice.

The third Yama, Asteya asks that we do not steal. This refers not only to the possessions of others but also to their time and energies. To take what is not freely given is an abuse and might be a symptom of a perceived lack in ourselves. Coveting what others have suggest that we feel what we have is not enough, that we are not good enough in ourselves and are seeking externals to fill a void. Asteya asks that we stay connected to our gratitude and recognise all that we have – not only our material blessings but those of spirit too; it requires a willingness to exchange our energies, to not only receive but to willingly give. This open generosity is key to Druidry’s attitude towards how we manage our resources and the resources of our planet. Druidry opens us to the abundance of life and shows us that the’ getting and striving’ can lead to terrible imbalances within our own lives and personalities but can also result in disturbing the balance of the natural world and our support systems.

Aparigraha is also very relevant to Druidry’s views on the use of resources. It encourages us to let go of our attachments and asks us ‘what is it that we truly need?’. We can so often confuse our needs with our wants. Aparigraha asks that we become aware of our need to consume and question what is driving this. It challenges mindless consumption  and the defining of ourselves solely by what we have or even by what we have achieved. It asks ‘what is the self beyond these limiting definitions?’ ‘How does my need to consume impact on others and on my own happiness?’

In Druidry, we understand that life is constantly subject to change, that we must build a healthy relationship with change and learning to let go is an important element in this process.  Aparigraha ask that we build a trust in life to provide and that if we hold on too tightly to things, people and experiences out of a fear of loss, or a sense that we possess a bottomless void that nothing will fill, the imbalance ripples out from our personal lives to that of our communities: our planet just can’t sustain the level of consumption that we currently indulge in.

Druidry also recognises that how we choose to express our energies in the world, both sexual and other, impacts far beyond the self. Energy is a sacred force to be used destructively or for good. When we learn to recognise the nature of our own energy and develop a greater awareness as to how we use it, we can potentially become a more positive force for good in the world. Brahmacharya teaches moderation and asks us to become aware of where we place our energy and if we are expending it in ways that serve our greater good. Druidry also explores ways in which to consciously direct our energies, investing it wisely.

I have only skimmed the surface of both philosophies. I suspect I could spend a whole lifetime discovering new layers of understanding in the Yamas, just as I could with Druid approaches. However, even a short exploration of these paths serves to illustrate how each might enrich the other. I am cheered by this as it speaks to me about something fundamental in my spiritual search: it is in the living of life that we gain wisdom and in the living and the sharing of that wisdom that we are given the opportunity to find the best way through the complexities and difficulties that being human can bring us.

This brings us neatly back to Ahimsa, because the compassion we develop for ourselves and others in our struggles to learn and grow is the true treasure of any spiritual journey, regardless of the path we choose to follow.