There are five kinds of mental modifications, which are either painful or painless.
“We forget that the pleasure we seek is actually who we are,” notes my reference text in a discussion of this sutra. This is so radically optimistic. And certainly a different perspective from the general notion that we are made of darker stuff, or inherently sinful. Pleasure, Joy — this is the baseline of the Self, we don’t actually have to search for it. It is our restless minds which either obscure this truth, which causes us pain, or allows this truth to shine, which is pain-less.
Is our true nature one of Joy, or one of Sorrow? The only response I have to this is to make a decision to take a stand for Joy.
So when I am in a fit of anger over some lingering tax issue I have to deal with, or how difficult it has been to find steady work, I make a decision (or try to) to view all of these emotions as the busy activity of my mind, obscuring the happiness that is the truth of my life. Sometimes in order to step away from all these emotions I have to literally step outside, go out for a walk in the woods, breath in the mountain air.
Another optimistic note about this sutra is found in my text: “Each and every instance of meditation, prayer, selfless action, study of high ideals, or mantra repetition adds force to the momentum of painless vritti [movement of the mind as it attempts to find meaning], strengthening their influence in our lives. Over time, the pain-fee whirlpool gains sufficient force to overcome the painful one.
No yogic act, no matter how small, is ever wasted and contributes to Self-realization.” (Inside the Yoga Sutras, Jaganath Carrera)
That, I can tell you, is a relief.
“We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on.
But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive”.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Artwork by Maria Pace-Wynters, Shamantube