Well it’s January 31st today. How is your resolution going? Going strong? Hit or miss? Unresolved? Resolution, what’s that? Whatever state you are in, it’s ok.
Take a moment to reflect on your resolution, if you made one, and take stock. Perhaps your resolution needs some tweaking. Making changes can be a challenging endeavor often laid low by trying to make too many changes at once. Some insight from the Yoga Sutras may be of assistance.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali wastes no time and comes right out and says it:
अथ योगानुशासनम् ॥१॥
If your classical Sanskrit is a little rusty here’s a transliteration:
atha yoga-anuśāsanam ॥1॥
And a translation/interpretation into English:
1.1 Now, having done prior preparation through life and other practices, the study of Yoga begins.
1.2 Yoga is the settling of the fluctuations of the mind.
We’ve written about 1.2 before, and libraries have been written about it since there’s so much to unpack. Patanjali, even with terse verses, needed an additional 194 verses to expound on that one line. Just a bit further in the sutras, Patanjali states:
अभ्यासवैराग्याअभ्यां तन्निरोधः ॥१२॥
तत्र स्थितौ यत्नोऽभ्यासः ॥१३॥
स तु दीर्घकाल नैरन्तर्य सत्काराअदराअसेवितो दृढभूमिः ॥१४॥
abhyāsa-vairāgya-ābhyāṁ tan-nirodhaḥ ॥12॥
tatra sthitau yatno-'bhyāsaḥ ॥13॥
sa tu dīrghakāla nairantarya satkāra-ādara-āsevito dr̥ḍhabhūmiḥ ॥14॥
1.12 These thought patterns (vrittis) are mastered (nirodhah) through practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya).
1.13 Practice (abhyasa) means choosing, applying the effort, and doing those actions that bring a stable and tranquil state (sthitau).
1.14 When that practice is done for a long time, without a break, and with sincere devotion, then the practice becomes a firmly rooted, stable and solid foundation.
We posted about these on social media today on a cold, cold day at the end of January, 30 days after any potential changes you may have begun implementing in your life for 2019. The question posed at the beginning of this post is not meant to be a judgement on progress. It’s meant as a jumping off point for reflection in conjunction with the highlighted Sutras. Your practice, whatever it is, asana, pranayama, gratitude, service, etc., as Patanjali suggests should be done for a long time, without a break, and with sincere devotion. How long is a long time? Probably more than a few weeks. Without a break? Reminds me of the words of another great philosopher - Jerry Seinfeld - who suggest to “not break the chain." Do your best to maintain your practice as consistently as possible. If the chain is broken, it’s ok, just start again. And whatever you do, do it earnestly - don’t half-ass your practice, otherwise why do it?
So as you continue (or begin) your practice(s) for the rest of the year, keep Patanjali’s notes in mind. Don’t be discouraged by failure or hurdles, but allow them to inform your path of forward progress.
Thank you and we love you!