Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chapter One, Sutra Two

sutra 1.2


Yoga is the cessation of the turnings of thought

Sutra 1.2 is the spinal column of the Yoga Sutras. It is the total definition of yoga through the teachings of Patanjali, and yet, for many years, I would read this sutra and toss the book. Stop thinking? I don't think so. I enjoy a good thought or two, don't you?

Citta is the mind in all its totality—the conscious, unconscious, and subconscious. Vritti is the beautiful addiction to the activities of citta. The first time I read the sutras I thought, well that is just preposterous. Since I'm a human, I'm pretty invested in thinking, so the only chance that's going to stop is if I get clonked pretty hard on the head.

The word yoga has had a lot of definitions for me as I have practiced it over the years. Initially it meant a set of kooky
calisthenics I found compelling (see sutra 1.1). Then it meant a grueling physical devotion that was cultivated through daily asana and pranayama practice, following which came a fascination with yoga as a healing practice—the word meaning integration and wholeness. Now I think of yoga as both the method and the goal. It is all the experiences above and many more that I hope to discover, for ultimately, yoga is a word without parameters. But when defined so precisely in the Yoga Sutras it freaked me out.

This story will demonstrate.
More than one of my early yoga teachers commented on my dreadful lack of ability to perform
Savasana—The Corpse Pose. The more I dreaded it, the more I hated it and after a time I became locked in mortal battle with the most relaxing of all yoga postures. I would fidget, roll around, blink my eyes, tap my fingers (I was a joy to all others practicing near me). I found Savasana to be incredibly annoying, boring and a terrible waste of time. But most of all, it was the time in which my mental activities, or vrittis seemed to rage out of control. My thought process was a less interesting Joe Frank type monologue: I hate savasana, is it cold outside, I shouldn't hate it, it's part of yoga, what time is it, how long has it been, fucking forever, i think I'll have soup for dinner, soup is good on cold days, perhaps I should move North, I want a cigarette, I should quit, too hard, who's at the house now, I hope my roommate cleaned the bathroom, if I peed outside the toilet I would clean it up, should I become a chef, I don't even really like food, why don't I like food, that's a weird noise coming from that guy, I just don't like meat, I should have a have full-time job like my brother, that guy is snoring, how can he sleep, I hate savasana...
It was horrible and torturous.

Often times I would just sit up, I simply couldn't stand it. When my body was moving and my breath was full, I was more at peace, but when I stopped I just went crazy. And the more I tried to suppress my thoughts, they
plagued me with redoubled vigor.

About ten years into hating
savasana, I read TKV Desikachar's rendition of sutra 1.2. He writes:
Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distractions."
Something in my heart opened instantaneously. I felt elated! The words "
direct the mind" were the keys for me. It wasn't so much the action of ceasing thought altogether, which would imply some kind of death, but for Desikachar yoga is the practice of guiding the mind. Then I realized that in gently and persistently guiding my mind I could train it, as I had trained my body, to habitually go to a state of greater calm rather than identifying with all the whorls of thought.

I soon learned (and am still learning) that I could train the lens of my thought perception, just as I had worked so hard to train my awareness of breath and body. I work at cultivating helpful habits so that the goggles through which I perceive the world are a little more clear each year.

Eventually, I was able to change my mind about
savasana, though it still represents a time of great struggle for me. I mean, really, I could be drinking coffee instead of just lying there.

Has there been a moment in your life when clarity has presented itself completely? A great epiphany or a-ha! moment? Write about it. Some would describe this moment as Reality peeking though your biases and thought identifications and revealing something to you free of those associations. Remember this state and write it down!

When practicing yoga postures, is there one or two poses that you dread? How come? What happens during the pose?

What does the word 'mind' mean to you?

Do you think you have a choice about what thoughts to think?

Take ONE habit of thought that is not serving you. Clearly identify it in writing. Each time you have this habit of thought redirect it towards something helpful, positive or reassuring. If you can remember through the day, notice how often you have this habit of thought by writing it down or simply making a mark.

No comments: