YSP 1.13 – tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasa
– Practice (abhyasa) means choosing, applying the effort, and doing those actions that bring a stable and tranquil state (sthitau). – SwamiJ translation
– Persevering practice is the effort to attain and maintain the state of mental peace. – translation Bernard Bouanchaud.
Today marks the first day in many months that I haven’t had one or more family members serving with the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan. I’m grateful to know my immediate kin have made it out of there relatively unscathed, at least in any physical sense. I also reflect upon those who remain in Afghanistan – not just the NATO soldiers, but the population of that region at large. I’m quite confident that they too would like to live a life in peace and tranquility.
While the issue of world peace is a topic slightly above my pay grade, I like to think I make a contribution to world peace when I look after my own back yard. When I engage in the practices that bring me to a stable and tranquil state, I’m a lot easier to live with. I’m easier to work with. I become a better neighbour, a better citizen. I don’t have to be instrumental in negotiating treaties to make my contribution. I just have to build my peace within.
I firmly believe that we cannot have world peace until we have peace within our communities. And there will no peace in our communities, until we have peace in our families. And there is not peace in the family until there is peace within. Peace begins with me. It begins in me, with my ‘stable and tranquil state’.
So what are the practices that bring me to this stable and tranquil state? Currently, my personal practice has been largely centred on pranayama and meditation. Some of my current health issues have encouraged me to put the asana (postural) practice on hold while I look after some other details. I guess that’s why it’s a personal practice – One size does not fit all and each of us needs to determine what the nature of practice needs to be. I think in North America, we tend to get locked into the mental rut that practice is ALWAYS postural in nature.
I think we do ourselves a disservice when we lock ourselves down into the idea that practice must be thus. We change over time. Our bodies change, our lives change, our circumstances change. It only makes sense that our practice should change as well.
The key point, to me, is that it’s something that can be done on a regular basis. By regular, I’m talking “daily or darned close to it”. So what if life circumstances restricts me from unrolling the mat on a daily basis. That is no excuse to stop practicing those things that will bring me to a ‘stable and tranquil state’. Right now, that a somatic meditation focused around breath in the body. It’s done at least daily, preferably twice a day for 30 minutes at a time. This is the abiding part of ‘abiding practice’ spoken of in this part of the Sutras.
Of course, there is that old handy excuse – I don’t have time. I’ve heard it before. I have said it before. Realistically, that excuse is total unfiltered crap. When I say I don’t have time to look after myself, I’m really saying that for any number of reasons, I don’t think I’m important enough to take care of. Ever since I was two, I’ve managed to find time to brush my teeth on a twice daily basis. I find time to answer emails, read the paper, do dishes, watch TV, talk with a friend. So when I tell myself that I don’t have time to do my practice, I’m lying to myself. I do have time; however, I’ve decided that someone or something else is more important than my mental peace and well-being. I’m saying that my email correspondence is more important than the peace in my family. That the latest episode of CSI is more important than peace on this planet.
And when I start looking at it that way, there’s nothing more important than my practice.
Thanks for reading and Namaste,