Tag Archives: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

A Drop of Kindness

kindness“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.33.

I was a quiet kid. Very cerebral (shocking, I know), VERY sensitive and hyper-aware of how I was perceived. Book in hand like it was an appendage I was born with, I was comfortable in my own world, a steady stream of words at the ready to draw me into other realms and imagined realities. Soon my love affair with music began as the pop-rock, punk and alternative anthems of the late 70’s and early 80’s started to resonate with me, and I soon found myself a helpless (and willing) victim to the artistry that period was rich with.

As I mentioned in The Examined Life, once you have things you own, you end up having things to defend, and when I began to fall victim to my ego-self, as all kids do, I saw how different I was from other kids. I wasn’t out playing sports, I wasn’t hanging with the popular kids, and because my inclination was to not do what the kids I held in the highest esteem were doing, I soon began a serious relationship with inferiority as I felt like I had to defend who I was.

I was pretty much left alone by other kids, with a few exceptions. I had friends, absolutely, but what I now look back in hindsight on as being left alone because I was confidently doing my own thing was then interpreted as not being good enough to hang with the others. And yet, on the rare occasion, someone would step out of the fray and approach me or befriend me, and that one act of kindness and friendliness changed everything. That one act, of what I considered bravery, served as a tiny beam of light that would intensify every time I found myself accepted by others.

I obviously now know that the acceptance of others is a by-product of living a life of authenticity and truth and should never be the desired goal that one seeks to attach to, but back then, in those formative years, it came as a huge relief. A drop of friendliness felt like an ocean of acceptance, and I was so hungry to be accepted.

I’ve always been aware that friendliness is a choice, one that many overlook as the selfishness of the ego acts as the decision-maker. I don’t take any act of kindness for granted, and in the majority of my waking moments, I do my best to channel kindness, friendliness and compassion, as a choice. I know full well how far kindness and friendliness go, and as far as I’m concerned, as a student of yoga and one who endeavours to live a life according to its principles, the sutra from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras mentioned above needs to be expanded to include:

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy,  gratitude towards the friendly/kind, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.33.

This sutra is said to be the one to take with you, even if you don’t remember any of the other ones, and I realize it’s somewhat pompous of me to tweak ancient wisdom, but in my opinion and experience, I felt the most peace when kindness was shown to me. It brought me back to centre, to peace and well-being.

For more information on Sutra 1.33 check out this interpretation…

 

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When the Smallest Truths Effect The Greatest Changes

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write a post, mainly because I’ve been busier than ever with co-managing the studio, workshops, traveling, classes, and the ongoing Luna Yoga Teacher Training. I’ve noticed how my tendency when I get busy is to get things taken care of or executed one by one, while mentally taking note of everything else that is in store for me during the weeks and months to come. More often than not, this allows me to pace myself and make sure I’m ready, rested, and prepared for whatever project is lined up, but sometimes, this approach backfires on me.

If I spend too much time thinking about what’s ahead of me, what I need to do to prepare for it, and what needs getting done in the interim, I sometimes feel stifled, overwhelmed…and it’s through this process that I lose sight of why I’m doing it all to begin with! I have a tendency to be hard on myself…which is why yoga speaks so loudly and clearly to me…it reminds me that I can take a step back, and put my faith in the knowledge that everything will go smoothly, that I will get everything done, and that there’s an omniscient & underlying current of reassurance and peace that is waiting for me to tap back into.

This weekend I’m giving the teacher trainees a lecture on one of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Sutra 1.23 – Ishwara Pranidhanad Va. This sutra speaks to the ability to move closer to a place of truth, peace & light by putting our faith, and the fruits of our labours, towards a higher energy, towards what each and every one of us, in our own way, interprets God as being. Putting God/light/energy into the forefront. From my purely non-denominational point of view, that energy is exactly that – an energy that has taken shape in the form of light in my reality, an energy that is always within me and that I find myself tapping into and falling back on when I most need it. I’ve spoken before about God in yoga (God Talk), and how the practice is often mistaken as a religion, and I’ve also written about how I firmly understand that we all need to believe in something, we just need to figure out what that something is, and then believe in it, wholly and unapologetically (Up to You). Both these points are key in interpreting Sutra 1.23.

Most of us get tested in our belief systems, especially when we come up against an event which (or person who) challenges what we perceive to be truth. It is during these moments of conflict when we struggle to remember why we have placed our faith where it is, and whether we need to reconsider alternate opinions. Taking an opposing point of view is always advisable, if only to be able to put one’s self in another’s reality. When researching Ishwara Pranidhanad Va, I was struck by a moment of brilliance that ever since, has really affected the way I see the world around me, and my place in it.

Here’s my take: in choosing what to believe in, I allow for a certain surrender to take place…to open myself up to my beliefs and where they lead me. Let me be clear here: surrender doesn’t mean giving in to anything or anyone, it means letting go. It means allowing the doubt and skepticism to melt away, so that all that’s left is a connection to what serves me. This surrender leads to something even greater: acceptance. If I allow myself to put my faith in the knowledge that the energy and light is, essentially, the source of all being, then I understand that no matter what happens to or around me, regardless of how incredible or horrible it is, it is all part of my evolution, spiritual and otherwise. Every minor detail, and every major event, all have something within them that offers me information…information to learn from, information to move forwards, information to evolve into who I’m ultimately supposed to be. This allows me to keep doing everything I’m doing, no matter how busy I find myself, with a certain degree of peace that provides a solid foundation for me to keep going. And what makes this acceptance even more incredible is that I know that with it comes the certainty that when I come to a moment of conflict or doubt, my faith in my beliefs remove the need to place my own expectations or demands on anyone or anything else to conform to what I believe should be. I know that whatever happens, it’s all good. It’s all part of my transformation, of my evolution.

Ask yourselves this: if you put your faith in the understanding that all events, conflicts, and encounters are part of your evolution, spiritual and otherwise, then how would your life change? How much anticipatory stress would you carry around with you? How would the way you react to conflict change? How would you change?

Let me know…I’m curious 🙂

Full Disclosure

I’ve been thinking a lot about how many of the causes of suffering in my life and in the life of those around me are rooted in communication…what we communicate, how we do it, and where we direct it. It seems that so much of what we convey to others passes through a complex system of filters before it pours out into the space we reserve for communication, but many times, it doesn’t even make it that far. That filtering of information happens when we analyze what we have to share, who we’re sharing it with, and a) what our feelings toward that person are, and b) what that person is dealing with in their daily life. When we have incredibly joyous news to share, we often suppress the degree of that joy if we’re dealing with someone who tends to be pessimistic or sarcastic, and conversely, when we have news that isn’t happy, we tend to keep it to ourselves for fear of imposing on others, afraid that we’ll “bring them down”  once the news or information has been shared.

The second Yama in Patanjali’s 8 Yogic Limbs is Satya, which loosely translates to “truth”. Taken from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Sutra 2.36 states, “For one who increasingly practices honesty or truthfulness in actions, speech, and thoughts, his or her will is naturally fulfilled.” Very often, this sutra is applied to how we interact with others (the Yamas are intended to provide restrictions in how we treat others to live a more balanced, peaceful life), but I firmly believe that if we are not applying these practices to ourselves, we won’t have the necessary tools to apply them to others. “As within, so without” sums this up perfectly. We are also taught that if the truth of our words can potentially hurt someone, we should practice discretion, whereby adhering to the first Yama, Ahimsa. I know that in my own life, growing up dealing with my homosexuality taught me that it was normal to keep secrets and to not impose my troubles on others, and I see that same approach being used by countless people around me, regardless of their sexual orientations, genders, races, and religions. We are so conditioned to buy into the processes of discrimination and categorization that naturally occur in our minds that before we know it, we have become our own censors and end up withholding our own truths.

What I’m trying to get to is this: despite our best intentions in trying to transform who we are, what we experience, and what we have to communicate so that it becomes more palatable for others, we end up doing everyone a disservice. When we keep secrets, when we hold back the truth, we create our own obstacles from letting people know who we are, which in turn prevents us from knowing them. We are ALL guilty of filtering information, of white lies, of bending the truth. What we need to recognize is that in the same way that nothing ever ends up being what we thought it would be, people will most often react to us in ways we never would have anticipated. We create stories in our minds about how events will unfold based on how and if communicate, but ultimately, we need to let go of the illusion that we are writing the script and just surrender to the fact that we know very little in relation to what we think of ourselves, and that the people around us, those that we love and who love us, WANT to know the truth. Whether it be good, bad or horrific, those in our inner circles want to be included in everything that happens in our lives, because being privy to it differentiates them from everyone else. It allows them to step up and be our friends, our confidants, the shoulders to cry on and the cheerleaders to cheer us on. It gives them access to us, the same way we’d want access to them.

So this is my challenge to you: what have you not been honest about? And to whom? What information needs to be conveyed in order for you to feel free and light and liberated? Everyone’s got something…this is your cue to do some real spiritual work. Forget about the left-brain chatter that is feeding you stories about what the possible repercussions may be of full disclosure. Silence it….and start talking. It will make all the difference.

Without You…

From Where I'm Sitting

It’s December 1, and I’m sitting in the sun-drenched kitchen of my UK friends soaking up the heat of the sunbeam while a visiting arctic weather system that has already dumped snow on the country literally howls outside. My view from where I’m sitting is the village church and its tower, the perfect backdrop to the massive back lawn that is blanketed in white. My journey over was seemingly interminable, as it always is, but the weather added an element I’ve never had to deal with in the past 20 or so times I’ve been here. Landing in a snowstorm, waiting at Heathrow’s bus station to make my journey North while trying to avoid the gusts of wind that would roll in every time the sliding doors to the bays opened…another reminder that no matter how familiar I am with any given process, there’s always opportunity for something new to present itself. And in keeping with every time I travel, I once again find myself contemplative, thinking about how the year that is coming to a close has been pivotal for me, a real game-changer. I’ve worked with more focus and direction this year than any in years previous, and despite having seen dreams actualized and have my life become more of everything than I could have hoped for, there’s one thing that matters more to me than any of the accomplishments: the students.

The role of the students in our world of yoga is often discussed from the point of view of the students themselves, but rarely do we hear a teacher discuss it from their own perspective…so here I am 🙂 I know that on some levels, especially those that refer to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 2.7 & 2.8, the teacher should assume a purely objective stance in regards to his or her students, but to not communicate my thoughts on the matter would be doing an injustice to my students.

What I’d like my students, and at the risk of speaking on the behalf of other teachers, all students to know is that it is a true honour to be able to share my thoughts and insight with you who listen with open hearts and ears. Knowing that my words and intention have an effect on you is a responsibility I take very seriously, and one that keeps growing as I continually get feedback from you letting me know how your lives are changed by the information that I pass on…and again, at the risk of sounding repetitive for those who come to my classes, please know that I’m simply passing on what has been passed onto me, in the hopes that it will continue to be passed on by you. You should also know that as much as you may learn in my classes, I also learn from every one of you. Every adjustment I give, every reaction I see in each of you instructs me more about not only you, but myself and the human condition as well. Understand that with every class that ends with you floating back to reality in a meditative, peaceful state (what we typically refer to as the “Yoga Haze”), I float out of the class as well, meditative and all the more certain in the path I’m on and the role I’ve been blessed with.

Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that I would not be a teacher if it weren’t for the students. Without you, I’m nothing. I am because we are. And for that, I’m grateful 🙂