If you had told me five years ago that I would be embarking on a ‘spiritual’ journey at this time of my life, I would have choked on my beer and tripped over my pool cue. To say I was cynical would be an understatement. I truly didn’t believe you needed spirituality to be a good person. I still believe this. I think we are all ‘wired’ for knowing right from wrong. However, I now ponder and study the very questions about the Self, the Universe and the nature of happiness that I once disdained.
There’s one caveat to this path- it must be experienced. It is not merely ‘knowledge’ from a book or a lecture. It WILL NOT make ANY sense if it is not a direct and sincere experience. I didn’t ‘see’ this before I began the practice of Yoga and the study of its ancient wisdom. Personal experience, increasing awareness and self-observation have been my greatest teachers.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, 1.2 (this celebrated Yogic text is organized into four ‘Padas’ or chapters), states: Yogash citta vrtti nirodha, yoga is the cessation of the modifications, or fluctuations, of the mind. What are these ‘fluctuations’ and why would we want to stop them?
If you give it some thought (pun intended), our minds are busy and at times, chaotic. Through practice of Yoga and meditation, we seek to still the mind because it is so calming and relaxing when our thoughts aren’t racing. Here’s one way to consider this:
Begin with one simple image or thought- something like ‘red apple’. Then, close your eyes and ‘watch’ as the mind takes this simple thought and literally runs away with it. Here’s the flow of my thoughts starting from ‘red apple’.
Red apples. I like candy apples. I haven’t had one in awhile but that would be good. I doubt I could make it myself. Probably have to wait until Halloween to get one. Last Halloween, I didn’t do much – no parties and certainly no candy apples. I do need to go to the grocery store for some cat food. Mickey (my cat) is really constipated right now and I really need to do something about it. He looks fat but he’s actually full of poop.
We experience thousands of thoughts each day. Most are random but some are worries about events that haven’t happened yet and cause us suffering. Quieting the mind (even if it’s only temporary) can give us some space in the current moment to explore deeper meanings or patterns in our life. I have experienced ‘light bulb’ moments during meditation that a busy mind would not have allowed me to grasp.
As I continue on my path, I find proof that Yoga is more than just a bunch of poses. It’s a philosophy of living life and finding your way to contentment. Years ago, as I railed against Religion and the damage done in the name of it in an effort to convince someone that ‘God’ doesn’t exist, a good friend told me – “Don’t take away another’s hope. It may be all they have”. She was right.
(Yoga Teacher, Seeker and Aspiring Yogini)