If you come to my classes chances are you’ve heard me lovingly and consistently refer to homeboy Patanjali, and if not here’s the short of it: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are the “foundation of modern Yoga” important to note modern yoga. The Yoga Sutras explain and simplify a combination of many many older Yogic texts, broken into four books or Padas. “It presents a holistic system of practices that provide clear progressive steps towards the elimination of suffering and attainment of spiritual liberation…They boldly proclaim that the joy we seek is within us, as none other than our True Identity.” -Inside the Yoga Sutras by Jaganath Carrera
Let’s review some concepts before I make my real point here: in the first Pada the goal of yoga is stated “when the mind becomes completely clear and focused, the changeless Self is realized as one’s True Identity.” The basic obstacle is ignorance. “The self gets confused with the body and mind due to the ego’s identification with the modifications in the mind-stuff and the resulting impressions they leave in the mind.” To gain some control over the mind-stuff a two-pronged approach is presented: practice (abhyasa) and non attachment (vairagya). Practice is the effort to steady the mind; many options are presented and you experience a number of these in any given yoga class here at Shree. Non-attachment is the effort to maintain a balanced relationship with sense objects by not depending on them for happiness.
So here we go! How can we use the messages of the Sutras to navigate this thing we call life? One day at a time, in community, curiosity and self examination.
Transitions are hard. Any kind of transition requires a shift in our mind, nervous system, endocrine system, the clothes we wear, the way we go about daily life, and so on. Growing up in Florida I am accustomed to an actual Spring; rain, flowers, baby animals…and we get those things here in the High Desert but the transition is WAY more extreme than my childhood swampy ecosystem. The melting snow, the falling snow, the fluctuation of temperature, the wind, the rain, lest we forget the MUD!!! Now mud has some other yogic meanings, this gooey-gooey element is associated with the Kapha constitution. Kapha is the combination of water and earth, relating to the mucus within our bodies, the principle of stability, groundedness and a steady mind. The other aspects of our Taos spring are more associated with Vata constitution which is air and water associated with movement and in excess dryness, mental confusion and general variability. As humans on Earth we are impacted on every level (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual) by the fluctuations of the seasons- and if we are unaware of our own constitutions, preferences, weaknesses it can seem as though we are being picked on by the cycles of nature. Luckily we now know this is not Supreme Reality but the self getting confused and making attachments and replaying impressions- therein lies suffering. Things in nature are neutral. It is our approach that determines whether our sense objects are experienced as a source of pain or pleasure.
To clarify, I am certainly not saying Spring is a torturous season through which we must endure, I am saying it can be helpful to identify what may make us feel unbalanced and what makes us feel grounded. In addition acknowledging the challenge of transitions and looking to the sutras for some insight. Pada three of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras presents the concept of samyaya which is such intense focus and contemplation on something that one gains a sense of unity and felt wisdom from that thing. Sutra 3.27-3.28 “By samyaya on the sun, knowledge of the entire solar system is obtained. By samyaya on the moon comes knowledge of the stars’ alignment.” Know the source and you will know the manifestations. By knowing a part you can know the whole; the whole is reflected in the part.
Here is the challenge: how can samyaya on the aspects of Spring help us live in more alignment and less suffering. From what I was saying about the energetics of Vata and Kapha at play in our High Desert spring season we can yolk some wisdom and balance from this play of the elements. Although we are bombarded with winds and dryness find comfort in the squelch of your boots in the mud as you walk around. From this interaction feel in your own body those squelchy systems, your tongue in your mouth, the mucus in your nose…and instead of turning to curse the wind, thank the wind, for without this duality you wouldn’t be able to know the contrary within yourself. You’re sick of the mud? Turn to the sky, watch the wind blow the trees and find admiration for their flexibility and their stability. Recognize that same energy exists within and thank the mud for showing you how variable and how supple you can be, if only in your mind. Finally, through all of this, the wind and dry, the mud and the rain, may we use these extremes and contrasting experiences to realize and deepen our understating of “the changeless self”. Non-attachment is not a negotiation of the world but the cultivation of the appropriate relationship to the transitory pleasures and pains of the world.
Our culture has taught us to replay the past and attempt to predict the future, in this way we have totally lost the present moment. As we come out of winter we are full of plans for summer vacation, outdoor adventure and sunshine but don’t miss the middle. Let yourself sit in the change, welcome it! Embrace it! Feel your own fluctuating nature and admire the present moment. Invite focus and contemplation of the cycles and aspects of Spring and nourish yourself with practices that support transition warming body oils for dryness, astringent herbs for too much mucus and of course get yourself to come yoga classes at Shree to help ground and grow as we move into the Spring Equinox at the end of this month!