Published on August 2, 2008
Yoga Sutra 1.2: The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.
(“If the restraint of the mental modifications is achieved one has reached the goal of Yoga. The entire science of Yoga is based on this.)
—The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda
“I have found that the asana are an answer to the difficulty of our times. Certainly I have not been above the darkness of our times, the ‘night of all beings.’ On the contrary, I have known its depths. I have spent more days in the lifetime with despair in my heart than hope. But yoga brings me in touch with the light. One of the qualities of this light is the knowledge that if we have our soul, we have everything, and if we lose it, we have nothing. Yoga connects us to our soul. Our practice reminds us that we already have everything that we need. Amidst the unspeakable sorrows and injustices of the material world, we find the endless brilliance of the spirit. Our connection to our own soul serves as a reminder to those around us, clearing the way for them to reconnect to spirit themselves. In the night of all beings, our practice is a radiant life.”
—from Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates & Katrina Kenison
Friday has been very challenging. It didn’t start out that way. I felt great in the morning, but then, as the day progressed, I let experiences and incidents from the outside world effect my inner landscape. There is so much suffering in the world. There is suffering on a huge scale, like wars, poverty, and genocide. There is suffering in communities with gangs, racism, crime, and the horrible acts our egos perform. There is suffering in our homes due to lack of communication, insecurities, and fear. Then there is suffering we do to ourselves, because we’re afraid…afraid of being happy, afraid of being disappointed, afraid we’re running out of time, afraid that we’re not good enough.
I went to a restorative yoga class tonight. Usually this results in a great state of bliss. Tonight, with each pose I was haunted by my mind. I tried to tell myself to snap into the present. When the teacher invited us kindly to close our eyes and go inward, I kept mine open to look around. To fight the tornado of my thoughts I started to make a checklist. Yoga Studio-check! Yoga room-check! Bamboo floor- check! Yoga teacher- check! Yoga students-check! Black mat-check! Blankets-check! My back is touching the mat-check! My clothes are touching my body-check! My body is encompassing my soul-check! My mind is hijacking my soul-check!
In reviewing my checklist, my present material existence at the time was pretty safe…pretty conducive to bliss….pretty free of suffering. It could have been worse. Imagine the mental checklist a soldier in battle may go through, a mother holding her dieing child, even a person lost in a foreign city without a map. But here I am, laying on the floor in savasana, in a safe and peaceful environment, and the only thing that is keeping me from a state of bliss are tiny little neurons in my mind that won’t turn off!
Just like all that is good and wonderful and brilliant in this world is derived from the same universal source: love. All of suffering, be it massive or minute, can be traced to the same source–those little jumpy neurons in our mind. Yoga Sutra 1.2 tells us that in controlling the mind…basically we can end suffering.
The following 200-something Yoga Sutras explains further the tools to control the mind, but this is the simple, eloquent key to it all. Today I saw how simple it is to let our minds create an environment of suffering, that in the material, tangible, reality of things does not exist.
So what is the answer? How do we control the mind? Well, I learned today, for starts, trying to stay in the present. I simply tried with a mental checklist. It didn’t transport me into a state of great bliss. But that is what practice is for.
Peace & Love.