Sri Patanjali lived somewhere between 200-300 AD, it is believed. His Yoga Sutras, a series of short aphorisms, invite readers to explore their own perceptions of reality, and to examine how these perceptions impact their responses to the world. Translated from ancient Sanskrit, the English wording of the Sutras can sound a little odd or stilted. Yet once the contemporary reader gets past this initial awkwardness, he or she will find in the sutras a practical and useful guide to living a more centered and satisfying life. In fact, I suspect Patanjali might find this recommendation too lukewarm – for it is his assertion that once we are able to remove the blinders of ignorance, we will discover our true nature, which is pure joy.
The Sutras are based on three principals:
- That unhappiness is based less on outside circumstances, and to a much greater degree on our limited or inaccurate perceptions of the world and of who we are.
- That there is a central core of joy that is within each of us, waiting to be revealed
- That it is possible for each of us to achieve, if not illumination, then peace of mind and contentment by mastering the way we think. Each of us has the capacity to observe the workings of our own thoughts and to make choices about how we perceive things and what actions we will take next.
In the Summer of 2011, I enrolled in a week-long intensive at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Meditation with yoga teacher and shamanic practitioner Ray Crist. At that time, I had run my own sales consulting business for nearly 10 years, after having been president of a company in New York which had gone public, and I was extremely identified with my own achievements. My husband and I had a lifestyle that many people envied – each of us entrepreneurs, working on our own schedules, and traveling between homes in New York and South Florida.
But what was also true was this: I had come to the end of the road. I was deeply unhappy and exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In the years that followed, I devoted myself more deeply to the study of yoga. And life changed significantly. I decided to end my marriage and resign my sales accounts, effectively closing down my business. The financial repercussions from these decisions snowballed into dramatic changes in my personal circumstances, which were far more severe then I had ever anticipated.
The study and practice of yoga has been a constant for me over these past years. It has grounded me through changing times and more importantly it continues to challenge me to examine who I am, the kinds of assumptions I make, how I choose to operate in the world. Because of my practice I feel compelled to continually clarify my perceptions, to remind myself daily to be less judgmental and more authentic and compassionate in my relationships, and to explore how I may be of greater service to others in this lifetime.
A primary tool in my study of yoga has been Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which most students of yoga become familiar with during their teacher training. Now, several years after my certification as a yoga instructor, I have decided to come back to an examination of the sutras. My goal with this project is to try to better understand and apply to my own life all 196 yoga sutras. This could take a while.
Sutra is translated as “thread” and the student of the sutras will hang his or her own beads of exploration, interpretation, and learning on these threads. My hope is that this very personal exploration, these beads that represent my own interpretations, will have some value and interest to others who might come upon this blog. Namaste!