Patanjali 1:33 Friendliness, compassion, delight and equanimity.
Yoga is about the everyday, every breath, every moment path: what do you get excited about? where do you expend your energy? what’s it all about? and how to figure it out. If there was any doubt that yoga is more than what happens on the mat, here it is in tis sutra, which is a life raft for how to behave in the world.
Sounds so simple: be friendly to happy folk, compassionate towards the unhappy, take joy in good action and try not to get to worked up about the bad stuff.
Simple is not easy, though. So much of behaviour is reactive and what this sutra asks us to do is choose how we respond. Don’t react, respond, and do that with consideration, for your own peace and evolution - reducing obstacles to self-knowledge.
The claim in Sanskrit, is citta prasadanam, which has overtones both of purification and calmness regarding the mind. “Lessening obstacles to self-knowledge” reminds us we are discussing the path that leads to yoga, which happens in a mind that isn’t identified with its disturbances. We can, little by little, step away from all our identifications, the things we act as if they matter, even if we say they don’t when asked point-blank, but we react to them as if they were everything, and so make them our world.
Peace comes from self-knowledge. In such a state we are transparent to the truth of our own being. To reach this state, start taking the veils off the dancer: the obstacles to self-knowledge must fall. But like any drunken reveller, when the veils start to ripple and fly we want to get caught up in them, how they catch the light, how they ruffle over the surface, how they catch the heady scent. We forget that the veils aren’t what they cover over, or we tire of the effort and settle for the ruffle and sparkle, running off in the direction of the wind.
In this sutra we are asked to tend to our own responses to our worlds, and in return, the world to which we respond will reveal itself differently to that we have previously experienced. Can changing the world can be so simple? Try it. Practise your equanimity when buffetted with derision or insult. Practise being undefended and friendly when you are around happiness. Practise being undefended at all. Undefended and compassionate in the presence of sadness, by keeping your heart open and your boundaries clear. Yoga is a razor’s edge and you walk it with your heart. When you truly open your heart in experience, the world you experience transforms, and so do you.
Where to start? In your next human interaction, your next breath. Have you practiced compassion and undefendedness with your own precious self? Be friendly toward your own happiness, befriend and cultivate it. Have equanimity when you catch yourself in bad behaviour – no self-derision, no guilt. Steadiness, abiding breath and choice, whether in line or Surya Namaskar, these are the things that build your yoga practice.
Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.
Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography
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