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Dear Jenni: YSP 1:31

Suffering, depression, physical restlessness, and disturbed breathing accompany mental dispersion.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali — Bouanchaud translation

How does one recognize obstacles as obstacles when they arrive? I think this a key point in any yogi’s development for an event that looks like a boulder in one perspective is but a grain of sand from another viewpoint.

For me, the key point to take from this sutra is that suffering, depression, restlessness, and breathing issues are not endpoints. They’re road signs that point us towards an obstacle. In this case, they’re not ‘enemies’ but ‘friends’ along the journey.

It sounds a little confusing even to my ears and I came up with this tortured logic but here goes and perhaps someone can sort this out by whatever means necessary. Let’s take suffering as an example. Recently, I was rejected for a job promotion. There’s no nice way to be rejected from something. It always hurts. There’s no hiding hole for the ego. Bottom line: regardless of what you bring to the job, the people in authority liked someone else better. Suffering ensues.

In some fairy tale version of my self, I’d like to report that I took it all in stride and stayed 100% present, consigned my rejection to the past with detachment and dispassion. I didn’t. It was personal. It hurt. The ego had its ass kicked and it stung.

And there it is – I felt miserable because the ego was wounded. Okay, for a few minutes, it was howling and I was physically restless and my breathing was more than a little rickety.

What does yoga tell me to do? It told me to go with it. Instead of making attempts to distract myself or further disperse my mental energies, yoga told me to turn inwards and go deeper. What was the nature of the suffering? It was an ego wound. What to do about it? Breathe it in. Welcome it. Don’t push it away. Explore it. Follow the breath through the nooks and the crannies of the emotion. Be with it. Be present in it.

It’s this act of introspection and examination that allows suffering to ease as the self examines it. Bouanchaud gives us three kinds of suffering (duhkhatrayam)

• That originating in oneself
• Suffering on the account of others
• That arising from natural disasters

Clearly, in this instant, my suffering originated in myself. So what to do about it? Accept it for what it is. It’s an ego wound. My pride was on the line and got kicked.

And this brings us to the key point of yoga that we sometimes overlook. I am not my ego. My pride is wounded but none of this is me. The ego, the pride – all of these is tools of my self but are not Self.

A few months ago, I asked the Universe a question about dharma – what direction should I take at this point in my life. In this rejection, the Universe answered. As that realization came to the forefront of consciousness, the restlessness went and my breathing steadied.

The ego wound is still a little raw. It’s going to take a few days for it to recover. To that end, I think a little tender loving care towards it might be in order. Sukha displaces dukha if we let it.



PS: Jenni’s also posted her comments on this sutra here. Christine adds her perspective on things here.


About Kate MacKay

I'm a certified Viniyoga teacher, in Fredericton, NB. I was a 9-1-1 operator and emergency services dispatcher for 22 years. Surprisingly, the two worked well together, or as I liked to put it, from the sublime to the ridiculous -- all in a day's work. I'm currently off work as a result of a stress-induced cardiac condition that's thrown a few crimps in my lifestyle. I'm not actively teaching yoga in the classroom right now and probably won't for several more months. That said, this blog is one of the forms of practice I can do and I thank you for joining me in this exploration of all things yoga.

One response »

  1. Thank you for this post – it’s one of my favourites! I can really relate. It is sooo much more easy, to “go through” or “to explore” the symptoms, (or the obstacle!) than to fight it. For me the symptoms actually often have evolved from trying to fight the obstacle. I’m also glad to recognize the use of the word “ego”. I think I use it in the same way – but I’ve found that this is not to be taken for granted 🙂 “ego” and “self” (or egoistical/selfish) is often used… well I’ve been confused. And before even reading your post, my classes had turned into circle around “sukha” – beauty! Love jenni


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