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Dear Jenni – YSP 1:46

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All these processes of directing the mind involve an object of inquiry.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:46 – Desikachar translation

Well, Jenni, I’ve struggled with this sutra for nearly two weeks. I see you’ve managed to keep to our timetable. I’ve decided that the biggest problem with these sutras studies has been my attitude towards it. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself feeling very frustrated with these concepts and ideas. Grappling with them has not been the proverbial walk in the park. This, of course, was exceedingly annoying to my ego. What do you mean, after nearly 12 whole months as a student of deeper yoga studies, I’m not fully conversant in the philosophical and conceptual intricacies of a dead foreign language? Vote me as the ‘dummy of the year’ then.

And interestingly enough, it was the beating of my skull against this sutra that more or less snapped me out of it. Yesterday I was feeling guilty over being a week behind in this project of ours, so I picked up my books and papers and headed out to a local coffee shop. If nothing else, at least it would minimize the distractions associated with being at home. I would have to work. It was an interesting exercise. I didn’t manage to get much done because I was the very portrait of distraction. I’d get up and walk around the bookstore part of the shop. I’d go back to my chair and try to read. I’d write a sentence and get up to wander again. I managed to talk myself into buying a book. I got my hair cut in another part of the mall. I came back to my studies. I bought shoes. I came back to my studies and scribbled a few more lines. This went on for the best part of the afternoon. I’m sure I walked 10 kilometers in my attempts to avoid tackling this ‘incomprehensible’ sutra.

Finally I steeled myself into doing some actual work instead of expending all my energy to avoid it. As I was grumbling into my coffee cup about “why the heck is Chapter one, aka Mission Impossible, at the front of the book… grumble, grumble, grouse, grouse… I started to tear apart the sutra.

The words “an object of inquiry” seized my mind. Up until now, I’ve been very frustrated that I’ve not had a mind as transparent as a diamond, or anything even in that neighbourhood. I was bashing my ego up against the rock of a theoretical standard. I had to ask myself, “What kind of yoga teacher would I be if I demanded that my students fully take every posture, completely, in its fullest expression, the very first time they tried it? Or even the 90th time that they tried it?” Answer: I’d be a very poor excuse of a yoga teacher. We understand that people start at one level and proceed, intelligently, progressively and persistently in their own evolution of their practice.

So why am I treating the training of the mind through meditation as something different than the training of the body through asana work? What’s with the ‘el-perfecto’ standards? If I’m not 100%, I’m useless? What’s with this? Where did that come from?

And there we have it – an object of inquiry. In order to direct the mind, I needed to select an object of inquiry. It could have been a mantra sound, a philosophical meditation, a prayer, a word, an icon. In my case, directing my mind towards the origins of my lousy attitude towards the Sutra studies turned out to be perfectly functional in directing my mind. And there we have it – still not clear as a diamond but my mind certainly has a fully appreciation of its own make up, which is nicely segueing into our next Sutra adventure.

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.

3 responses »

  1. maybe it really is just a matter of less meditation practice than asanas (an hour of meditation is much harder to do than an hour of asanas), i find my mind wandering all over the place. right now, i’m holding on to the belief that progress is really jumpy and not linear. like we know we might practice a specific asana for the longest time and sometimes there seems to be no incremental progress at all (inversions like handstand, in particular)… until the one awesome day when we can actually do it.

    so hopefully, there will be one awesome day when i can hold my concentration… more than 10 seconds.


  2. Hi Michael.. good to hear from you as always,

    My teacher uses the analogy of a spiral staircase where we’re going in circles if you just look at it from one dimension — the top down viewpoint, but we’re also ascending if you change your viewpoint to an angle and can see we’re moving in two directions simultaneously.

    We keep coming back to what looks like the same place, over and over again but in reality, we’re coming back to a familiar place with a new perspective.

    And i totally agree with your notion that the learning is not linear. It be-bops and I suspect it should. But like all roads once lead to Rome, all yoga roads lead to the same village of Samadhi. Let’s enjoy the journey along the way.



  3. i had to read that a couple times to “get it”. but that’s a great analogy!! the staircase also reminds me of mc escher’s amazing drawings, haha! now let me read your new entries!


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