A blog about yoga, life, health and healing.
Yoga Sutra 1.33 says
"By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion towards those suffering, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind retains its undisturbed calm."
According to Patanjali, our state of mind isn't something that just happens but something that we must cultivate if we want to keep our minds peaceful.
Similarly, in Buddhism, the four immeasurables are practiced to settle one's mind. According to Buddha, when one radiates loving-kindness, compassion, delight, and equanimity towards all people and things, whether they are pleasant, unpleasant, good or bad, the mind can remain in it's natural state of peacefulness.
This past weekend, I was able to practice this ancient but always current wisdom passed down by the great sages Patanjali and Buddha.
One of my best friends was visiting. She moved away last summer as a result of a very painful divorce.
My friend and I spent two days walking, talking, laughing, and crying.
My mind and heart flowed easily from loving-kindness towards my friend that I care deeply for, to compassion for the suffering caused by the radical changes that occured over the past year, to a state of joy and delight in hearing the successes that she and her children were experiencing despite the hardships that they had to endure.
Loving-kindness, compassion, and delight came easily to me in the presence of the friend that I love and care so deeply about.
What wasn't so easy was when the topic of conversation was the ex husband. I unabashedly blamed him for not only the suffering of my best friend and her children, but I selfishly blamed him for taking my best friend away from me. Just the mention of his name this weekend took me down a slippery slope of anger, hatred, judgement, and condemnation.
Our very limited time together made each moment with my friend even more precious to me, so every time my mind began it's downward spiral, was time that I lost being present to the joy of being with my friend that I miss so dearly.
As much as I may have secretly wanted my mean and vengeful thoughts to hurt the "wicked" ex husband and change the situation that my friend and her kids were in, I would be kidding myself to believe that my judgements and thoughts would make any difference at all. Since I can't change someone else's behavior or circumstances, the only person affected by my disturbing thoughts were me.
It is a waste of time, energy, and our own peacefulness to try to control someone else and make them into who we want them to be. Whether they are happy or sad, virtuous or mean, everyone is responsible for their own actions and attitudes, and the consequences of them.
When I let this "radical acceptance" sink into my mind and heart, I began to have a mind and heart that were at peace despite the actions or behaviors of another. I was able to allow another's "wickedness" to pass through me instead of knocking me off balance. With continued practice, I may even begin to see through the "wicked" behavior of another and feel compassion for their suffering as well.
When we cultivate this state of equanimity we feel pleasure without clinging to it, pain without condemnation or hatred, and an openess and acceptance to all experiences and people including ourselves.
As I sit here writing my blog, I still miss my friend dearly, I still feel compassion for her suffering, I still feel joy in my heart from the time we spent together, and what I don't feel thanks to the wisdom of yoga and my practice of "cultivating disregard for the wicked" is an angry and vengeful heart.
Every Tuesday and Friday morning I have a yoga class in the studio that I created in my basement. The space is also used by my very active family as a driving range, batting cage, weight room, movie theatre, gymnastics studio, and bedroom.
It's actually quite impressive that I am able to transform the room (which often looks like a tornado came through) into a peaceful and zen like space to practice yoga.
Oftentimes, in my haste to get the room ready, instead of puting things into their proper places, I just shove them quickly into the closet and slam the door shut. I have been doing this for quite a while now and the closet is beginning to protest. In fact, the door has begun to change shape as it's contents threaten to burst out.
As the closet gets more and more cluttered, I often hope that no one will open the door and find out my secret!
Last week as I approached the misshapen door, with weighted vest in hand, I was reminded of a cartoon. I imagined the door trembling as it attempted to keep the mess inside and hidden from view. Since I also wanted to keep the mess inside and hidden from view, I saw myself quickly opening the door just enough to shove the vest in there. After I imagined myself slamming the door shut and hoping for the best, the closet door buckled and then burst open knocking me onto the ground where I lied trapped under the weighted vest, soccer balls, hula hoops, winter coats, golf clubs, exercise bands and baseball bats.
In the Path of the Yoga Sutras, Nicolai Bachman defines yoga as a gradual purification of all layers of the individual self.
Sauca is a personal practice of keeping the body, mind, and heart clean and clear.
On the outer most layer, the practice of sauca would require not just cleaning out my closet, but keeping it neat and clean on an ongoing basis.
The clutter in our surroundings can add to the clutter in our minds. Closing the door on my messy closet doesn't make the mess go away. Just knowing what's behind the door weighs on my mind as I try to hide it or pretend that it's not there. Most of us know the feeling of spaciousness and relief that we feel when we clean up our desk, our car, our garage, or our junk drawer.
To purify the layer of our physical bodies, we practice asana (yoga poses). We also eat as cleanly and healthfully as possible, choosing organic foods and reducing our consumption of processed or junk foods. We might even fast or do a cleanse to clean out our sluggish digestive systems.
At the layer of our breath, we practice pranayama or conscious breathing as a way to purify and cleanse our lungs, heart, and circulatory system.
As we move inward towards the layers of our hearts and minds, sauca becomes a practice of being aware of our thoughts and emotions so that we can mindfully rid or purify ourselves of negative, angry, violent, or judgemental thoughts about ourselves and others. This purification practice might require forgiveness or letting go of grievences and resentments that we hold onto. In an attempt to purify our hearts and minds, we might also stay away from people or places that affect us in a negative or toxic way.
When we attempt to hide, push down, or deny the "messiness" in our lives, (like I did with my closet), we not only create a mind, body, and heart that is sluggish and cluttered by all the stuff, but at some point all that we push down will find a way to come out. My closet door changed its shape in order to hide its contents. Our bodies, minds and hearts are also shaped by the junk that we put in them. Our bodies may develop an illness, an injury or excess weight. Our minds may become delusional, confused, or unclear, and our hearts may become bitter, closed off or shut down.
The more junk we layer onto our surroundings and into our bodies, our hearts and minds, the less we are able to connect to our higher self or as the yogis call it our parusha. When we purify and cleanse the layers of our being, we are sure to find that our inner most layer always is, always was, and always will be, to put it simply, PURE LOVE.
Sometimes we forget who is in the driver's seat when it comes to the thoughts in our minds.
It can feel like we are just a passenger on a wild ride. The driver is our mind and all we can do is sit there and hold on for dear life. Our mind driver takes us all over the place, does three sixties and fishtails, and sometimes it even drives in reverse at ninety miles an hour. Other times, it just drives straight ahead way too fast, all while talking on a cell phone and listening to the radio!
The tendency of our mind to go back into the past and forward into the future, making many stops, twists, and turns in between is normal but often unproductive. Our yoga practice can help us take over the steering wheel of our minds and direct our thoughts to where we want them to go.
Getting into the driver's seat of our minds requires that we get focused and present.
Sutra 1.2 in The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, says that "yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind". When the mind is still, we can connect with our innermost self.
The sixth limb on the eight limbed path of yoga is dharana.
Dharana can be defined as, " the binding of consciousness to a single spot." In other words, focusing our attention on an object or activity that we have chosen. So using the driving analogy, we focus on the road in front of us and that's it. No looking around at the scenery, comparing our car to the one beside us, talking on our cell phone, or changing stations on the radio. WE JUST DRIVE.
In traditional yoga, dharana is focusing one's attention on a chosen diety, mantra, sacred object, or the breath. This leads the practitioner to the next limb called dhyanna (meditation) where the mind becomes completely still. Once the mind has stilled, the state of samadhi can be reached. In this final limb of yoga, the practitioner achieves a state of oneness with the object of focus.
I suspect that when a race car driver becomes "one with the road", he has reached samadhi.
Practicing this one pointed focus not only on our yoga mats, but in our everyday lives will benefit everything and everyone involved. So instead of eating dinner while standing by the sink while watching tv while texting a friend, we eat dinner or watch tv or text a friend with full attention.
Giving our full attention to the people in our lives can deepen our connection to them. When our minds are focused and attentive, we are more likely to hear and understand another person's point of view.
With an inwardly focused mind we may even come to hear and understand the wisest voice of all...the voice of our higher self.
There's a story about two monks walking along a riverbed. They come across a woman crying at the side of the river. She needs to cross to get to her village, but she is too afraid.
The first monk continues past her remembering the vow that he has taken which forbids him from having contact with women.
The second monk picks her up, carries her across the river, sets her down on the other side, and continues silently on his way.
When the two monks meet up hours later, the first monk can barely contain himself. "How could you do that!" he says, "You know that we are forbidden to touch women!" The second monk says, "Brother, I put her down hours ago, it is YOU who still carries her."
Material possessions, worries, concerns, anger, sadness, stories from our past, even excess weight are all things that we can carry around with us. We store our stuff in our homes, our bodies, our minds, and our hearts leaving very little space to be open and present to anything new that might come in.
From the wisdom of yoga philosophy, we learn to practice aparigraha, which is translated as non hoarding or greedlessness. The more stuff we collect and/or hoard, the more we will be weighed down or anchored to that stuff which prevents us from being fully present to life as it is now.
There is nothing wrong with having stuff. It is when we hold onto to that stuff after it has passed it's usefullness that it becomes a problem. When we keep books, clothes, furniture, and other items that don't serve a purpose any longer because "we might them need someday", there may be an underlying fear that we are not aware of.
This fear of not having enough or not having our needs met can drive us to hold onto our stuff like a security blanket. Our sentimental items like greeting cards from a loved who has passed or a nick nack from last year's vacation often can keep us anchored or stuck in the past, and in denial of the truth that we will have to give it all up at some point.
The stuff that we carry in our minds and hearts may be harder to recognize. We get stuck in a story from our past or a grievance that we can't let go of, and we may not realize the damage that it is doing to us in the present.
The monk who broke his vow most likely experienced discomfort for his actions, but instead of carrying his pain and keeping it alive in his mind and heart, he chose to set it down like he set the woman down at the side of the river.
Although the other monk didn't break his vow, he caused his own suffering by carrying the story in his mind for a long time afterwards.
The practice of yoga encourages us to simplify our lives by leaving behind that which no longer serves a purpose for us. Aparigraha can help us to free up space in our homes,our bodies, our minds, and our hearts and with this spaciousness that we create, the possibilities for something new to enter might even be transformational.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras