Sutra 13, Pada One
For Lent I gave up watching Hulu, an online-TV service. With a bit of irony, I note that Lent offers me a way to practice yoga when I am off the mat.
The 13th sutra of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a manual for the study and practice of yoga, tells us essentially that yoga is a full-time occupation. Yoga’s ultimate goal is to achieve awareness, or isvara, by stilling the whirling kaleidoscope of thoughts we call consciousness, or cita vritti. We still our minds to attain isvara through practice (abhyasa) and nonattachment (vairgya).
I live on a farm, a large, uncluttered piece of cultivated wilderness 30-miles outside Washington, DC. The plate-glass window of my study overlooks a field and a tree where cardinals, blue jays and orioles perch like large-petaled flowers. I spend much of each day at my desk writing and reading and am blessed to have happiness close at hand. I left the city six months ago to gain some distance from the clatter of the streets and the busy boutiques of my former, up-scale neighborhood. Happiness is now as close as a walk up the rough hills outside or as easy as unrolling my yoga mat by the window. But off my mat, away from the forgiving lifestyle, how do I live my yoga? How do I practice yoga all day?
Lent takes place during the 40 days prior to Easter, and for Catholics and many Protestants it represents the period toward the end of Jesus’ life when he retreated to the desert to pray and meditate. The number 40 resonates in Judaism and Christianity with associations to devotion, discipline and preparation – Noah waited 40 days for the floods to recede, the Israelites traveled 40 years in the desert, Moses fasted for 40 days on Mount Sinai, and of course, Jesus prepared himself for his final sacrifice for 40 days, with no food or companion other than the barren cliffs of the Judean Desert and the temptations of Satan. Read the rest of this entry »