Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Sutras: Silence (1.1 and 1.2)

Cumulus humilis clouds in the foreground and c...
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Now that I've finished my series on the Chakras, I've decided to spend some time with Patanjali, the father of yoga. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, a very short book of verses, has been guiding yogis for two thousand years, but I'll admit I haven't opened it since teacher training. To get me thinking about it, I'll tackle a verse or two every Sunday. The translation I have is by Alistair Shearer, so I'll be using that one, but there are others.

1.1 And now the teaching on yoga begins.

The first verse is pretty straight forward. I can picture yogis of old sitting in lotus, listening to their guru say those words. Pay attention, because here's where the good stuff starts.

1.2 Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.

Right there, in the second verse, is the crux of it. Yoga is silencing the mind. It's not eco-friendly rubber mats or butt-lifting spandex pants. It's not headstands or backbends. It's not even breathing deep. It's simply letting go of the stream of thought so all that's left in your head is silence.

Have you ever laid on the grass and watched the clouds? The breeze moves the clouds, forming them into shapes. Your mind starts to associate those shapes with animals, people or things, giving them names, and it watches for the next shape that looks like something. All the chatter in the mind is like watching the clouds, a constant stream of analysis, naming and anticipating. But what if, instead of watching the clouds, you watched the blue sky? What if your mind didn't have anything to associate with anything else? Focusing on the blue sky and ignoring the clouds is like silencing the mind. And silencing the mind is yoga.

That's all you have to do.

My husband hates it when someone says "that's all you have to do," because whatever is "all you have to do" usually requires a big commitment of time, energy, materials or money. When I say "all you have to do is replace that light fixture," he's likely to spend three weekends rewiring the house. I'm sure he just read "that's all you have to do" and cringed.

If you, like my husband, read the second verse and thought that quieting the mind might not be as easy as it sounds, you're right. It's going to take some major rewiring in your energetic house. And if you wondered why you'd want to silence the mind anyway, well, that's for next week...
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