Patanjali...Been there, done that?
I always get re-inspired every time I teach another weekend of the 100 hour Anusara yoga immersion program at my studio. Funny thing is I get probably just as much out of teaching than the students, and definitely have at least as much fun.
We had an introduction to Patanjali this weekend. Mostly focusing on the second chapter on sadhana (spiritual practice). This chapter really hits home for most students because it is something they can relate to. What I enjoy is that instead of just focusing on social restraints that up hold a kind of order( laws that are designed to hopefully keep total mayhem from breaking out ) we are invited to take a deeper and more subtle look at the inner workings of thought, emotion and the actions that arise from these.
The socio-political laws that we are bound to and uphold (or we will pay consequences like end up in jail) are meant to be in place to keep a lot of people with very different ideas about life and belief systems living together in some kind of harmony. Yet as we look around the world we see that these structures are being broken all the time and indeed there IS MAYHEM!
So the questions always arises in this section of teaching from students "well, what can we DO about all this suffering in the world?"
This is were the subtleties of the ethical precepts of Patanjali come in handy. And although we could say that at first glance these seem pretty obvious..meaning some of us learned a lot of the "thou shalt nots" in kindergarten and so can lead to a "been there done that attitude"...still, as beings on path of self discovery, these precepts are inviting us to a deeper look at ourselves.
If we want to live in peace and joy, we are going to have to take a good look at the very things that block that. Perhaps we feel we already live easily honoring ahimsa(non harming) (The first yama which is said to "hold" all the other yamas and niyamas) at least outwardly, meaning we are not desiring or intentionally causing physical harm to others. And yet we do. Every time we take a breathe we are killing organisms and even the Jains who sweep the road as they walk in an effort to not step on a living organism, are killing something.
This fact could lead one to a feelings of hopless-ness, but when we look at how the yamas and niyamas thread together we see that satya( what is true and valuable) sits next to ahimsa which sits next to asteya (nonstealing) ect ect. These are meant to be seen as a kula- as a community or sets. They balance each other out. They keep us from being "stolen" (asteya) by our values (satya) and to remember that letting go (aparigraha) has to happen in order for us to walk in what is infinite(bramacharya).
Eventually this desire to not harm, moves from the outer gross world and reflects back into how the "outer" harm/violence is really just a refection of the inner harm or "inner terrorist." You know who I am talking about, the one who likes to tear you down and point out ALL the things wrong with you? The merciless judge/ critic whispering over your shoulder all the time?
So HOW are we going to "save" the world "out there" when it is just the reflection of what is going on "in here"?
This is what Patanjali offers us, a clear (saucha) place to use our effort (tapas) for the deep contemplation, of real self-study (svadyaya) and begin to have a true devotion, service and respect for our selves as forms of Supreme Divinity (ishvarapranidan) All the time, being content(santosha) at the end of each day knowing we did the best job we could to offer our gifts and live fully.
This continual process of growth opens us to take our seat (asana)in LOVE. We begin to enjoy the wonderful unfolding of our own blooming. Our courage to look at what blocks us from living in joy and the process of shifting it by effort and GRACE has a ripple effect to the outer reaches of the cosmos..no matter how small it may seem. This is how we shift "the world."As the inner reflection changes so does the outer reflection..that's just the way it works.