1,2,3,4,5 senses working overtime.

Yoga is the restriction or stilling of the changing states of the mind. Yoga Sutra 1.2. Yes the second sutra defines what yoga is meant to achieve, but stopping thoughts popping into your head is about as easy as stopping a tsunami or hurricane. ( the wise words of Prof. Rao) I’m pretty sure as soon as someone even says to me in a guided meditation, “Clear your mind, ” I end up immediately filled with everything around me and inside me. I start hearing traffic, wondering if my foot will fall to sleep in a minute from its semi uncomfortable placement, and a multitude of the subconscious thoughts bubbling to the surface, fears doubts, nightmares, my kids, my responsibilities, work, illness, do I have enough gas in my car to get to the station, the wafting smell of something yummy or too much perfume, am I warm enough…and so much more. So I ask, is it possible?

I would have said no five years ago. I was trying to meditate then, but I just didn’t have the right tools or enough compassion for myself to be patient and not judge what arises. A gazillion inane, insane, obscure, trivial and important thoughts are just there, pretty much all the time, that is the human condition plain and simple. Just get over it, seriously, get over it. Nothing will make your mind a blank canvas, not even asana, however, the reaction you have to what pops in your head can be altered. Just as asana most certainly wasn’t at all stabile when I started yoga, why would I think meditation would be any different?

Sitting still has never been one of my gifts, at least not without something to focus my mind intently on on such as a book I’m reading, or a painting, or writing. I think that’s one of the reasons I was so drawn to Ashtanga, the intensity of the asana with dristhi, breath, and bundhas, allowed me to figure out how to calm my mind and body just enough to attempt sitting quietly without wanting to fidget, at least for a half an hour. (If I’m lucky!) Like with anything else, I fail…frequently

I meditated this morning, at points it went well, and that is the best I can achieve for now. Trying, again and again, no judgement or annoyance at what decides to be present with me, just acknowledge and move back to my breath or whatever focal point I’ve chosen to help me stay grounded. If the thoughts were important enough, I can get back to them later, let’s face it those thoughts just won’t go away…

Samskaras…why does the past haunt us so?

We all have scars, some visible, some not. Some, I think we are able to wear with pride of survival, others, well, it’s not always so easy. About 3 years ago, almost to the day, I was bit on the thigh by a friend’s dog. I have always been an animal lover, I have two dogs of my own. I was just walking up to her door and the dog came out and just attacked me. I knew the dog, had played with him and pet him before, one of my kids spent the night there all the time. It was scary, painful, bloody and unprovoked.

The intensive bruising, two punctures and one inch long rip all healed up nicely. My friend whom I didn’t turn in, felt terrible. I tried to go around Hugo again, but literally shake every time I’m near him, alas, I still tremble anytime I’m around new big dogs now. I wish I could control it, but it’s hard. I’m rational, I thankfully haven’t let my fear overtake me, but it’s there.

In my yoga practice, about a year later, I switched to wearing shorts on the mat. (It makes everything harder for me except garba pindasana, no more fabric to help with my binds!) As I practiced one day, all of a sudden, the faint scars on my right thigh were glaringly obvious to me. It made the memory stronger again. At first I was upset, I wanted it to be the past, I wanted to be able to pet a big dog again without shaking fingers and prayers in my head begging the dog to not assault me. I wanted to not visualize that horrible day. I wanted to be stable! Chitta vritti nirodahah and all. How could I master that?

Compassion. At first, I just tried to pretend I didn’t see the scars, that didn’t work at all. My next approach was repeating a mantra, that helped a bit, but I could still feel the extra adrenaline running through me. I was frustrated. It dawned on me, that I blamed myself, at least partially for the bite. As silly as it sounds, when the bite occurred I was going through a really rough patch, my friend had actually said she thought the dog bit me because it picked up on my vulnerability. It was a ridiculous rationalization and only revictimized me, done to spread the fault away from the dog that obviously shouldn’t be around people. Why is it so hard to own responsibility? I get that now, but at the time, I was in shock and injured.

I decided instead not to dwell on it, but if I saw it, and the fears arose in me, I acknowledged it. I said to myself, it’s ok, it was scary, and thankfully you healed. I utilized what I had learned in meditation. Ask yourself why, exactly, do these thoughts come to you or cross your mind. Don’t push it away but don’t obsess over it either. Observe and examine, but do not make any judgement in the sense of good or bad. Relax. Whatever appears has to be dealt with in your thoughts and emotion. Look with kindness and understanding on your own reality. (This all took place probably in a matter of seconds sitting in dandasana and then drifted subconsciously and consciously throughout the rest of practice) This mindset really works regardless of what comes up on the mat. I had one teacher word it a little differently, but as I was in some turmoil one day, he said, just get on the mat and send your thoughts out to your inner committee, they will figure it out for you. By reacting with compassion, I honestly don’t fear the fading scars anymore, and hopefully new big dogs will get a firm rub from me soon, versus my tentative touch. If all else fails, well, a hand gently placed over the heart can do wonders to soothe and heal. ūüíú

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Me and my Luna:-)

Lotus of the Heart

As I have always been fascinated by the subtleties of different word choices, particularly in translations. Our perceptions can change just by how we define a word, or in sentence structure. I’m taking a class here on the Yoga Sutras. I have no less than eight books on the sutras at home, all giving subtle variations as well as some in depth analysis of the meanings behind each thread. However, there is something to be said in hearing, even the same words, that you’ve read out loud. The inflection in someone’s voice can make a world of difference. I really like the teacher at the shala, he has not only a vast amount of knowledge on Sanskrit and the sutras, but a great way of telling stories to explain what he means in a clear and entertaining fashion.

As an example, we were going over The Yoga Sutras 1.33-1.44, describing how it is not easy to keep the mind happy, in undisturbed calmness, and the various possible ways to go about it. One in particular struck a chord in me:

Sutra 1.36 Meditation by fixing the mind on the inner light, which is beyond sorrow, the lotus of the heart.

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He explained it as a baby lotus in the center of the heart, blooming in deep meditation.

“The light within the heart is always there, no matter what you do, no matter where you go in consciousness.”

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

I made the mandala above when I came home from sutra class. I love the process of painting and drawing, regardless of the outcome, it is definitely one of my meditative states. I only brought some water colors and a silver brush pen here to India. I am excited to head to the market and get some of the powdered pigment paints to experiment with! Maybe if I’m ambitious a class on kolam design.