The Yoga Sutra is the defining doctrine of yoga, delineating;
- what it is (“to still the patternings of consciousness”),
- why it is (“so pure awareness can abide in its very nature, otherwise awareness takes itself to be the patterns of consciousness”), and
- how to do it (you’ll have to read the book to find out!* JK, I’ll tell you. Or try to. It’ll take me a while. Years, decades. Because I’m just figuring it out myself. Or rather continually cycling through periods of striving, thinking I’ve finally got it, scaled the mountain and reached the peak of understanding (ahh, the attainments) only to find myself staring up to the base of a much larger mountain, peak obscured by clouds. And it’s cold. And its easy to forget and impossible to see how far I’ve come already. Allow me to explain… (get comfy, this too could take decades. I can already tell this blog post isn’t turning into what I set out to write. I’ve even changed the title already.)
I am eternally grateful to have dedicated myself to a daily sutra study just days before SHIT WENT DOWN last year.
The 196 “Sutra” (literally: stitches, each an integral part of one thread) were written by Patanjali (who was either one brilliantly succinct man or a conglomerate of contemporary yogis) and span four books;
- I. Integration,
- II. The Path to Realization,
- III. The Extraordinary Powers (sign me up!), and, finally,
- IV. Freedom (yes, please).
They begin simply and accessibly enough.
April 28, 2016: Sutra I.1: Now, the teachings of yoga.
A line I breezed over on first read, eager to tear into the meat of it.
My teacher, Cheryl Oliver, has already taught me more than she or I know. A drop in that bucket is the deep respect she aroused in me for sutra 1.1. Very early in my 200 hour teacher training she spent about half an hour on the first word alone. “Now.” Now, an auspicious beginning, a now which your whole life has prepared you for, speaking to your readiness, an eternal now as now is always the time for the teachings of yoga. There is always more to learn. We, eternal students attendant with beginners’ minds.
Finding that much meaning in a word I’d dismissed as filler, a formality, Patanjali’s “Once upon a time” sparked a fascination and respect for the rest. I knew there would be sutras I would not “get” for years and even then only skim their surface for decades to come. Like hearing and dismissing a piece of advice or vocab word 100 times before, finally, aha, I get it. I think.
What better time to start than now? So I did.
April 28, 2016. I fiddled around with each Sanskrit word’s definitions in my half-assed bullet journal and then wrote this: you’re ready. So you know how challenging it’ll be. How scary. You know you’ll learn to see challenge as encouraging; “scary” as exciting. You’ll learn how
big enormous your heart is. And how to listen to it. Especially when it hurts. You’ll feel courage as a sensation. You’ll learn you are so strong and so blessed and so connected. So [and then the pen color changes, indicating I’d changed venues/mindset/pen (duh, detective) and was likely trapped in some interminable meeting] distracted and impressed by how his eyes match his neck tattoo in shading and depth [Major ADHD, reporting for duty!]
It’s funny. I got myself all stressed out yesterday, trying to get a 30 day jump on employing my counselor’s suggestion for warding off the birthday blues; celebrate the year that was rather than digging my grown-ass heels in, expression frozen in horror at the irrelevance, physical breakdown, senior citizenship and birthday candles I’m hurtling towards against my will; measuring myself against everyone I’m not and coming up wanting.
This exercise last year was easier. I had accomplishments I could point to.
And it was fun. I wrote a goodbye to all the shit I was done with. A letter I’d forgotten until just now actually.
This year, yesterday, I started freaking out. I should be so much better by now. And then I realized this last year was one of letting go. Of so so much. And I started to feel better, to LET GO of beating myself up (see??). I told myself the growth this year was subtle and immeasurable and so necessary. That though it may look like falling apart, it really is falling together; more and more so the more I trust and let go. And now, rereading what I wrote last April, I see it’s coming true. I haven’t arrived where I want to be but I know I’m heading in the right direction, that I’ll get there. And hey, it’s not about the destination but the journey.
I am so squarely in the journey that I can’t see the shore on either side anymore. Feeling more like I’m drifting (maybe even in the wrong direction, oh god.) than fearlessly, confidently speeding towards my dreams. And what are they anyway? What day is it??
I’m finally realizing it’s not about counting the miles logged or the battles won or the miles yet to go. It’s about being here, now, learning what there is to learn, enjoying what there is to enjoy and continually dragging my mind back to center, out of the past, out of the future, into the now.
* ha that’s how I ended all of my book reports up until third grade when my teacher told me it was time to cut the baby shit. Big kids finish their books (and book reports).