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Dear Jenni: YSP I:33

The mind becomes quiet when it cultivates friendliness in the presence of happiness, active compassion in the presence of unhappiness, joy in the presence of virtue and indifference towards error.

Bouanchaud translation – YSP 1:33

This week’s sutra ought to be emblazoned in all public places. It’s the yogic prescript for how to ‘work and play well with others’.

Character, it’s been said, is our behaviour when no one is looking. What kind of person am I? It’s a tough question to face and often, one we’re uncomfortable with for a number of reasons.

In my culture, there’s a generally accepted idea that why I am the way that I am, is largely somebody else’s fault. The flaws in my character are the fault of my parents, my ex-spouse, the lover who broke my heart, my boss, the Prime Minister and for all I know, the dog two doors down. It’s everyone and anyone’s fault, so long as I’m not responsible for any of this mess. To a point, I agree that who a person is at age 20 can be largely a reflection of the parents. Who you are at age 40? Look in the mirror, my friend.

One of the things that made me fall in love with yoga philosophy is that it’s rooted in the here and now. It’s real when it comes to the issue of personal responsibility for character and this sutra doesn’t deviate from that general principle.

Who is responsible for cultivating this quiet of the mind?  I am. And how do I do it? I do it by working on the issues of personal character. Jealousy, smug mock superiority, hard-heartedness, sanctimonious condemnation and hypocrisy are all issues that I have control over. I’m not naturally as self-righteous twit – I have to actively choose to be one. Alternatively, I can choose to be a respectful and joyful human being. It’s up to me and yoga doesn’t let me beg off by saying “that’s just the way I am”.

Jenni had me laughing out loud this morning when I read her take on this sutra. Read up on the choices that Jenni makes through ‘delegating’. She ‘s so right. We cultivate serenity by attending to the matters of character. If we want peace of mind, we get it by practicing peace.

Namaste and thanks for reading,



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. What a great take on this one! I love being a part of this conversation, you and Jenni bring so much freshness to the reading! Namaste, Christine


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