March 07, 2020

Sutra 1.9-1.11: Just Breathe

Samadhi Pada: Yoga of Being in the Now

    1.9 sabdajnananupati vastu sunyo vikalpah
    1.10 Abhava pratyaylambana vrttir ndira
    1.11 Anubhuta visayasampramoshah smrtih
    • sabda = word
    • jnana = knowledge
    • anupati = real/consequent upon
    • vastu = object
    • sunya = empty
    • vikalpah = imagination

    • abhava = absense
    • pratyaya = impressions
    • alambana = support/based on
    • vritti = modifications/fluctuations
    • nidra = deep sleep

    • anubhuta = experienced
    • visaya = situation
    • asampramoshah = not letting go
    • smrtih = memory

The asanas, the fancy postures, nailing a handstand and moving the body are a wonderful (and can be a really fun) part of yoga, but these are not the ultimate goal of the practice. The goal of yoga is samadhi. I'm reluctant to even call it a goal because samadhi doesn't exist in the future. It's a state that we can achieve only here in the now. I always had this mistaken belief that samadhi was nirvana or eternal bliss. How difficult does that sound to achieve?! But samadhi is simply something we naturally are. It's as natural as breathing which means it's not something we need to aim for, and it's not a matter of achieving it in the future or not, we simply need to sort through the muck of our conditioning, upbringing, societal influences and all that other "good stuff" that is blocking us from seeing our beautiful true essence and allowing us to rest in this state. This first chapter (or pada) of the Yoga Sutras will tell us how to sort through this muck, but first it's telling us what this muck may be. 

Sutra 1.5 and 1.6 told us how our mind can act as a filter in different ways preventing us from clearly seeing our essence. It even gave us specifics of five vrttis (modifications/fluctuations) that get in the way of clarity. Last week in sutra 1.7 and 1.8 we looked at two of them - direct perception and misconception. Those two categories of thought involve direct experience. This week, we'll look at the additional three vrttis which differ from the first two in that there is no direct experience involved. They are filters or mental images that come about purely through the creation of the mind.

Sutra 1.9 discuses the vrtti of imagination. Imagination is something that we use all the time. We hear a word or a phrase, and we imagine or conjure up a picture in our mind. Now isn't imagination a good thing? Remember that these vrttis can cause pain or not based on how we react to them (sutra 1.5). But, good or bad are still labels that cloud over our essence and lead us to certain judgements or biases which keep us focused on the outside instead of turning internally which is where we will connect with that state of samadhi.

The vrtti of deep sleep is presented in sutra 1.10. Again, sleep IS a good thing (unless you're not getting enough!) but in order to settle into samadhi we need to be conscious! To be in samadhi, we want to settle the activity of the mind to find our clarity, but we need to be awake to do this!

Finally, sutra 1.11 cites the vrtti of memory. These can be good or bad based on our reaction and association with them. Are you seeing a pattern here?! What if we become attached to a memory? What if we let that memory dictate who we are and the choices we make now? What if those memories prevent us from moving forward, stuck in the past instead of being here now? THAT will definitely prevent us from experiencing samadhi.

So, we know what yoga is, why we practice it and five disturbances of the mind that prevent us from realizing this why, . . . . . now what?! Patanjali gives us a method to calm these disturbances, but . . . . that's in the next sutras which you'll have to wait until next week to find out about. For now, let's see if we can simply be here now (and maybe move just a little bit closer to samadhi and our authentic self). I personally find the easiest way to become present and to let go of all of my mind muck is through breathwork. My challenge for you this week is to take just a few minutes out of your day to sit, breath and become fully absorbed in your breath. If you work better with a specific challenge or goal, then I challenge you to at least 10 minutes everyday this week doing Savitri Pranayama (the Rythmic Breath). This technique involves a four part breath: 
    • inhale for a count of 6
    • hold the breath (with the lungs full) for a count of 3
    • exhale for a count of 6
    • hold the breath (with the lungs empty) for a count of 3

You can work with different counts (either less or more), but the inhalations and exhalations are always twice as log as the held breaths. I find counting the breath takes me away from my mind wandering (and possible vrtti traps) and having my full focus on the breath keeps me here. May you find presence, freedom from vrittis and maybe even a little samadhi this week! Happy Breathing!!!
Sutra 1.9 Imagination is the activity of the mind not based on direct experience.
Sutra 1.10  Absence of reality also arises from deep sleep without thought or impressions.
Sutra 1.11 Memory is not allowing an object which has been experienced to escape.  

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