Category Archives: Patanjali’s Sutras

Is balance and good self-care sexy?

 

amanda green yogaBalance has, in the past, seemed a little boring. Post-college I was not interested in all this self-care, self-reflection and routine that goes along with feeling balanced. It seemed much more fun, to be spontaneous and unpredictable. Read: moody and temperamental. Or maybe it was hard and I didn’t know how to do it. Self-discipline didn’t seem sexy or even accessible so I went to the other end of the spectrum making lack of routine and poor self-care (my body can handle anything!!!) my habit.

Last week, I confessed to some good habits that have slipped over the last few months. Hard won routines proved their worth as I made my way toward balance, but with the complications of sickness, travel and visitors, these things seemed to just fall away and brownies made their way into my late night life. When I’m not paying attention or not that mindful about how I go about my business, cravings and urges have much more sway over how I behave. Maintaining balance requires presence and a some effort.

The thing that I keep learning about balance is how good it really is. When I’m rested, nourished, and digesting well, I’m not distracted by the poor functioning of my body. My mind is more clear. I can be present with my family, students and friends. I feel connection more than isolation. I can stay with a thought or idea much longer. It actually can be really attractive. But then something happens and the seemingly elusive balanced state shifts. I forget how much I like it. I yearn for the familiar distraction of being under-slept or over-fed.

Moving in and out of balance is part of life. In the first Chapter of the yoga sūtras, Patañjali lists a whole bunch of things, called antarayas, that get us all at some point or another. Yoga sūtra 1.30 lists the following as interruptions to balance: Illness, mental fatigue, doubt, haste, physical fatigue, over-indulgence, having a view of ourselves that isn’t actually the case, failing to meet a goal, aging and regressing… these experiences can bump someone who is rocking a balanced lifestyle and good habits into a ditch.

If we know how good it is to be in balance, or if the discomfort of being scattered and distracted causes enough problems, we can and usually do come back. This process might teach us something about our own tendencies and help us to find deeper compassion for these human foibles we all face.

Piano Lessons for my children… worthwhile or an exercise in self-torment?

Here's a romantic evening shot of our sweet piano, and two of my mom's beautiful paintings.

Here’s a romantic evening shot of our sweet piano,

Do it well.

Do it with a good attitude.

Do it for a long time.

And you will become it.

Hazel and Nora started piano lessons a few months ago and it has been fascinating to see how they are each responding to the piano, the music, and a practice routine.  I’m watching their skills develop little by little each week. Hazel is a good student in all things. She keeps up with her work and doesn’t like to disappoint those that are counting on her. She also loves music. She practices, has a good attitude, and likes what she’s learning, which all help to make her a really good piano student. Nora, on the other hand, is not enjoying piano. It’s parental/child mutual torture to get her to practice even a few times a week. When Wes is here, she does her best to get him to talk about anything other than piano. He patiently keeps her on task. He might be a saint.

The girls have different attitudes about these lessons, but both are progressing. Nora is almost through her first book of songs and Hazel has moved on to some sheet music. Even though Nora is learning stuff and is getting better, there’s a notable difference (pun intended) in how much the music seems to be a part of each of them. Hazel likes it, owns it, and is really proud of what she has accomplished. Even though Nora is spending time at the piano, her real energy is going into avoiding the task. When she’s playing she’s really practicing wearing us down. On days we are very persistent, she focuses on cranking out the minimal amount of practice with as little effort and the least amount of attention possible. (True confession: As much as it annoys me, I can totally relate. I wasn’t much of a piano student and employed many of these tactics myself. )

Watching the girls learn this new skill makes me wonder about two things:

  1. What is my attitude when I practice yoga? Which kind of practitioner am I? Am I practicing with attention? Am I operating with a good and open attitude? And am I connected to what I’m learning? Or am I going through the motions but actually practicing  ‘avoiding what I’m really there to do’?
  1. Patañjali lays out the process of yoga and how we learn something new in Yoga sūtra 1.17 and it totally applies to piano lessons.

This sūtra says…

vitarka-when we first start piano, we have only a gross understanding of it

vicāra- as we practice, it becomes more subtle

ānanda- this process brings us joy

asmitā-rupa- eventually we know the piano so well that we become one with it.  We don’t have to think about correct posture or “every good boy does fine.”   It’s already there in our muscles and on the paper when we sit down.

anugamāt- It’s through this process over a long time that 

saprajñātah – our understanding of the instrument and the music that it makes, becomes a part of us.

If we want to have more of something in our lives, then we need to spend time doing that thing. It’s not enough to merely go through the motions. We practice to have more of the kind of experiences we want and with an attitude that fosters a love of learning, ānanda. The experiences that help us to connect, earnestly and eagerly, to the things we want in our lives, are experiences that shape who we are and who we become.

*******

Registration now open!

Ojai Women’s RETREATIMG0172

REAL LIFE. REAL TOOLS.

AUGUST 31ST TO SEPT. 5TH, 2016

This 5-day retreat is specially designed to teach you the art of unlearning and letting go of old patterns that have long since lost their usefulness while also providing precious leisure time which allows these new skills and understandings to become more rooted in your daily life.

We teach YogaAyurveda and the Alexander Technique in a practical and meaningful way so that when you return home you will have useful tools to keep this new, balanced relationship going—not only within yourself but with everyone around you.

Carol P. Prentice ~ Amanda Green ~ Sydney Laurel Harris

AGY readers receive a $200 discount on or before May 15th!  Enter the code *RENEW2016* in your registration form under questions and comments. (*cannot be combined with any other discounts)

Learn more at http://handson-retreats.com or contact me with any questions you may have.

Piano lessons are worthwhile and an exercise in self-torture…

Here's a romantic evening shot of our sweet piano, and two of my mom's beautiful paintings.

Here’s a romantic evening shot of our sweet piano,

Do it well.

Do it with a good attitude.

Do it for a long time.

And you will become it.

Hazel and Nora started piano lessons a few months ago and it has been fascinating to see how they are each responding to the piano, the music, and a practice routine.  I’m watching their skills develop little by little each week. Hazel is a good student in all things. She keeps up with her work and doesn’t like to disappoint those that are counting on her. She also loves music. She practices, has a good attitude, and likes what she’s learning, which all help to make her a really good piano student. Nora, on the other hand, is not enjoying piano. It’s parental/child mutual torture to get her to practice even a few times a week. When Wes is here, she does her best to get him to talk about anything other than piano. He patiently keeps her on task. He might be a saint.

The girls have different attitudes about these lessons, but both are progressing. Nora is almost through her first book of songs and Hazel has moved on to some sheet music. Even though Nora is learning stuff and is getting better, there’s a notable difference (pun intended) in how much the music seems to be a part of each of them. Hazel likes it, owns it, and is really proud of what she has accomplished. Even though Nora is spending time at the piano, her real energy is going into avoiding the task. When she’s playing she’s really practicing wearing us down. On days we are very persistent, she focuses on cranking out the minimal amount of practice with as little effort and the least amount of attention possible. (True confession: As much as it annoys me, I can totally relate. I wasn’t much of a piano student and employed many of these tactics myself. )

Watching the girls learn this new skill makes me wonder about two things:

  1. What is my attitude when I practice yoga? Which kind of practitioner am I? Am I practicing with attention? Am I operating with a good and open attitude? And am I connected to what I’m learning? Or am I going through the motions but actually practicing  ‘avoiding what I’m really there to do’?
  1. Patañjali lays out the process of yoga and how we learn something new in Yoga sūtra 1.17 and it totally applies to piano lessons.

This sūtra says…

vitarka-when we first start piano, we have only a gross understanding of it

vicāra- as we practice, it becomes more subtle

ānanda- this process brings us joy

asmitā-rupa- eventually we know the piano so well that we become one with it.  We don’t have to think about correct posture or “every good boy does fine.”   It’s already there in our muscles and on the paper when we sit down.

anugamāt- It’s through this process over a long time that 

saprajñāta– our understanding of the instrument and the music that it makes, becomes a part of us. 

If we want to have more of something in our lives, then we need to spend time doing that thing. It’s not enough to merely go through the motions. We practice to have more of the kind of experiences we want and with an attitude that fosters a love of learning, ānanda. The experiences that help us to connect, earnestly and eagerly, to the things we want in our lives, are experiences that shape who we are and who we become.

*******

Registration now open!

Ojai Women’s RETREATIMG0172

REAL LIFE. REAL TOOLS.

AUGUST 31ST TO SEPT. 5TH, 2016

This 5-day retreat is specially designed to teach you the art of unlearning and letting go of old patterns that have long since lost their usefulness while also providing precious leisure time which allows these new skills and understandings to become more rooted in your daily life.

We teach YogaAyurveda and the Alexander Technique in a practical and meaningful way so that when you return home you will have useful tools to keep this new, balanced relationship going—not only within yourself but with everyone around you.

Carol P. Prentice ~ Amanda Green ~ Sydney Laurel Harris

AGY readers receive a $200 discount on or before May 15th!  Enter the code *RENEW2016* in your registration form under questions and comments. (*cannot be combined with any other discounts)

Learn more at http://handson-retreats.com or contact me with any questions you may have.

Skepticism really isn’t that fun

Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra 1.25 tatra niratiśayaṁ sarvajña bījam

Here's a pic of my sister and my mom not buying whatever my cousin is selling on the other side of the table.

Here’s a pic of my sister and my mom not buying whatever my cousin is selling on the other side of the table.

For most of my life, I’ve been a bit of a skeptic. This peaked between the ages of 12 and 27. In my teenage years, I was afraid of looking dumb or seeming gullible so I wasn’t willing to accept most of what I was told. The stronger position seemed to be “Well, I don’t think so. That sounds crazy. That person might not be a reliable source,” or other vague arguments that allowed me to feel protected from the dubious world of misinformation. I didn’t want to be swept up into any trends or crazes and then have to be embarrassed when the social-jury deemed it ‘lame,’ and I didn’t want to feel duped when the new-fangled idea of the day was proven wrong. So, I just didn’t go along with much.

I remember getting into an argument about cutting boards with a friend who had spent two semesters in culinary school. We were at my grandmother’s house washing dishes after a really nice meal together and as we dried my grandma’s cracked and slightly moldy wooden cutting board, I said something like, “This cutting board is gross. My mom always uses plastic ones so she can put them in the dishwasher.” And my friend said something like, “Wooden ones are better. That’s what we use at school.” My defenses fired and instead of asking more or deferring to his experience I dug my heels in about the merits and clear superiority of plastic over wood. I argued about it for a long time. He said knives didn’t dull as quickly on wood. Wood had natural anti-germ properties. Yes, they require a little more care and attention, but it’s a natural material. I just kept insisting I was right and they were gross. The conversation ended and I left feeling like I won the argument but I also felt like a jerk. I didn’t even really believe plastic was better. I knew I was being annoying and not very nice but I couldn’t help myself. I was a dedicated skeptic.  (I’m still embarrassed as I think about this conversation, so thank you for letting me confess it here. Maybe now I can let this 20+ year issue lay to rest.)

I bring all of this up because I’ve come a long way. And I actually think that this piece of letting myself take in stuff without being afraid of getting duped or with so much skepticism is a big part of my personal growth and enjoyment of my life. Yesterday morning, I was sitting with my yoga sūtras notes imagining all the ways that YS 1.25 could feel true. Tatra there, referring to īśvara, the subject of the previous sutra niratiśaya – unlimited; without limits, sarvajña – all understanding bījam – seed. Instead of finding holes in the argument, I wondered what insight might come as I considered this very broad idea of Īśvara, a higher power. I looked for ways that I felt that power in my life. I wondered about the usefulness of allowing for the possibility that there is something bigger than myself and perhaps even a plan for me and my life. What does it feel like to consider something without limits? What’s the closest experience I’ve had to that? If there’s really an unlimited source of all understanding, do I have an experience of what the seed of that feels like?

These kinds of questions and this very personal exploration is an approach that feels so much better than arguing against stuff all of the time. It’s better, but it can also feel vulnerable to withhold judgment and stay open. There are times when asking questions and staying open is too hard and I go back to that old ‘strong and safe’ stance that goes along with judging, deciding, and dismissing, but life is definitely more interesting when I can stay open. It feels softer. I learn more. And, no doubt, it is much more pleasant to wash dishes with me.

Inside Pavilion1

Registration now open!

Ojai Women’s RETREAT

Real Life. Real Tools.

August 31st to Sept. 5th, 2016

This 5-day retreat is specially designed to teach you the art of unlearning and letting go of old patterns that have long since lost their usefulness while also providing precious leisure time which allows these new skills and understandings to become more rooted in your daily life.

We teach YogaAyurveda and the Alexander Technique in a practical and meaningful way so that when you return home you will have useful tools to keep this new, balanced relationship going—not only within yourself but with everyone around you.

Carol P. Prentice ~ Amanda Green ~ Sydney Laurel Harris

AGY readers receive a $200 discount on or before May 15th!  Enter the code *RENEW2016* in your registration form under questions and comments. (*cannot be combined with any other discounts)

Learn more at http://handson-retreats.com or contact me with any questions you may have.

That thing we hate about our personality might actually save us one day

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I have two kids. When our whole family is out and people see how much Nora looks like Dave and Hazel like me, we often get the comment. “looks like you got one of each.” We laugh a little because if that observant, friendly stranger hung out at our house, there would be no doubt. Hazel is her own person, but she and I have a lot of the same tendencies and personality traits. You could say the same about Nora and Dave.

One of the things that Hazel and I share is sensitivity. If we get hurt, it hurts a lot. If we are sad, we feel it so deeply that it can be overwhelming. If someone in our presence is having a great/bad/emotional moment, we feel great, bad, or emotional right along with her or him. When I was a kid, I was labeled as moody.  I knew that my sensitivity could be hard on my relationships with other people, and it was also hard for me. At the time, I managed this sensitivity by ignoring it and by pretending to be different than I was. That didn’t work out very well for me so I’m trying my best to help Hazel develop a healthy relationship with this aspect of her personality – something I am still in the process of doing for myself.

I had an appointment with my yoga mentor this week and he asked about Hazel. He knows that Hazel is a special kid with a lot of sensitivity to what is happening around her. The question helped me to reflect on how this process is going for her, and to appreciate how good she is, even at her young age, at self-regulating. When she starts to feel overwhelmed, she usually knows what to do to get grounded again. She’ll take some space from a person or situation. She spends a lot of time alone, reading, listening to music, and especially drawing. If she needs it, she’ll come over to me for a hug and then stay there a while and I can feel her settling. Because she has ways of managing her emotional world and taking care of herself, she doesn’t struggle in the same way I did.  I really think she sees her sensitivity as a special part of who she is. I think she even appreciates it.

Just writing this makes me choke up because this is amazing to me. We all have things inside of us that are the difficult and wondrous gifts. The yoga sutras talk about the functions of the mind, the vṛttis, as kliśta akliśta (I.5). The same mental function can be helpful or not, just like the very same aspect of our personality can be great help in some situations or the very thing that gets us into trouble in others. When we know ourselves well and have a perspective that lets us accept and work with our personality traits instead of wishing we didn’t have them, it gives so much meaning to why we are who we are. Maybe this kind of acceptance and self-awareness even brings us closer to understanding what we are here to do, our dharma. Those are really lofty ideas, but for me, today, it boils down to this… I’m so grateful that Hazel can be herself and like her self.  I deeply admire the emotional intelligence she’s cultivating. And if I have some small part in helping her be able to do this, then I’m here to tell you, this motherhood thing I’m involved in is worthwhile and meaningful.  I’m grateful to be able to watch this magic happen.

Registration Opens soon! 


Ojai Valley Women’s Retreat:

Practical Transformation from the Inside Out

August 31st to Sept 5th, 2016

Inside Pavilion1

 with Amanda Green and Carol Prentice


 

Spend five days in the beautiful Ojai Valley immersed in good company, gourmet Ayurvedic cuisine and the transformational teachings of Yoga, Ayurveda, Alexander technique.

*Private and double occupancy rooms available.

Peppertree Retreat Center, Ojai, California

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Innocent misunderstandings still have consequences: YS 1.24

 

Please don't misunderstand my micro-expressions...

Please don’t misunderstand my micro-expressions…

This is blowing my mind this week.

In the first Chapter of the yoga sūtras (I.24), Patañjali describes this cycle. It’s one we all know well.

Kleśa – misperception

So, we are in a situation, and for some reason, we don’t see what’s happening clearly. Maybe we are in a bad mood or we spaced out for a second and were thinking about pizza instead of what our friend was telling us, or we got flooded with memories of the last time we were in these stupid circumstances, or we plainly misread the situation. The point is, there are lots of times when we misperceive what’s happening. We don’t even know we are doing it, and then based on that misperception, we take an…

Karma – action

Because we misread that tone of voice as angry instead of afraid, we respond with aggression instead of compassion. Or even though something isn’t right about that job, we take it anyway because it seems like we should. We do something based on the misperception and that give us a…

Vipāka – result

One of the things I tell my kids is, “there’s a consequence to every action you take.” You don’t clean your room, you lose tv privileges (parental consequence). When you choose to go outside without wearing a coat in the wintery morning, you’ll be cold (natural consequence). Some consequences or results aren’t so obvious at first, but they’ll show up in some way, eventually. And every result leaves an….

Āśaya – impression

Something remains with us. We have 2 glass walls in our shower and for the first 6 months that we lived in our house, I’d shower, leaving the water droplets clinging to the wall. Slowly, the gla  residue from our hard water would build up and the glass would get cloudy and ugly looking. And it was so hard to get off! It took one of those flat razor blades and chemicals and a lot of elbow grease to get is clear and shiny again. (Now I have a squeegee and it’s much easier to clean, but I have to take a minute at the end of every shower.)  Impressions and residue is part of this misperception-wrong action- result cycle. The things we experience leave something with us.

But this is only the first part of this sūtra. The second part is even more exiciting, if you can believe it. The second part says…

Aparāmṛśṭaḥ – unaffected (by kleśa karma vipāka āśahaiḥ)

The sūtra we are talking about here comes after I.23, in which Patañjali introduces an incredibly helpful thing we can have or cultivate along our yogic path: A belief in a higher power. This doesn’t have to be God, but it could be. Because yoga is experiential, it can be the force that jives with your way of thinking of the world – universal order, an inner wisdom, divine being. Something that helps you to see that you aren’t in charge of everything that happens in your life. I.24 sūtra describes Īśvara and says that this higher power is unaffected by this cycle of misperception.

Puruṣa – soul or person

Viśeṣa – special

Never misperceives? That is a special being or soul.

Īśvara – this is being described. This is the name Patañjali uses for higher power.

There’s a chain of events that’s set off when an action we take is based on a kleśa or misperception and the end result is a residue that’s left behind. That residue then influences how we perceive the next thing that comes along and if we’ve got too much buildup on our glass, then it’s harder to see the next situation clearly… or the next.

But there’s something that’s unaffected by this cycle and that has always had clear perception. Maybe it’s an inner voice or a special being or a system out there in the universe. And if we can find ways to link to this puruṣa-viśeṣa, then it will help us along the way. It can help us to have less of the misperceiving and more of the seeing clearly, so that the impressions that remain are of a different kind. A kinder kind.

 

Special thanks to Chase Bossart for teaching the sūtras in a way that continues to make them so very meaningful to me. I’m so grateful.

Feeling nervous isn’t glamorous

This is "Rascal." The photo comes from ODEE's article on ugly dogs.

This is “Rascal.” The photo comes from ODEE’s article on ugly dogs.

I was about to get into my car on the way to an interview this week and I was excited and nervous. I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be calm and collected. I aspired to radiate peace, clear communication, and just the right amount of confidence. Even though I may experience some version of this at other times, it wasn’t happening in this crucial moment and I couldn’t will it to be so. I knew this because there was an uncontrollable quivering that originated from deep inside my body. I was trembling. When this happens I feel like one of those little shivering dogs with too little fur or a nervous constitution.

I left my coat on, cranked up the heat in my car and then did my best to drive more slowly than I wanted to. I attempted to breathe in a relaxed way. I went over the reasons that I looked forward to the meeting and how I’d like it to go down. After the twenty minutes it took to arrive, the shivering had mostly subsided and my level of ease improved. I decided to ignore the sweat rings in the armpits of my blouse.

Aṅgamejayatva describes one of the five symptoms that help us to recognize when we are out of balance (YS I.31).   And get this… aṅga = parts, and mejayatva = “are trembling.” I’ve heard aṅgamejayatva described as an inability to be comfortable in a posture or being ill at ease in the body, but then I had this literal trembling thing happen and once again, I had to nod to our sage, Patañjali, for nailing it. Yes, I was experiencing emotional distress, duḥkha, there may have been some negative thinking, daurmanasya, breathing was agitated, śvāsa praśvāsā, my body trembled, and I experienced some agitation and lack of focus, vikṣepasahabhuvaḥ. Patanjali’s symptoms of distress? Check. Check checkity. Check. Luckily the sutras also offer ways to manage these symptoms.  I’m glad I’ve practiced ways to take care of myself when these are present.

The interview went well. It was actually pretty fun and I think really good things will come of it. I don’t know that I’ll ever totally outgrow the nervous-excitement trembling condition I have, but maybe I’ll get to the point where I can come back to balance and without sweating so profusely in the process.

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Save the date

Women’s RETREAT: August 31st to Sept 5th, 2016

Join me for 5 days in beautiful Ojai, CA, where you can replenish and reset with three master teachers as your guides.  You’ll have time to steep in the wisdom of yoga, ayurveda and well-being while enjoying the beautiful accommodations and the surrounding Ojai valley.

More info to come!

paperwhites flower

Full of Light

 

I love this photo of my cousin and Honey, probably because I love these two men so much.

I love this photo of my cousin and Honey, probably because I love these two men so much.

Honey, my grandpa, had a fall about a week ago. He does some exercises and some walking every day and it was during one of his walks that he lost his balance. Initially, he had some pretty bad bruising, swelling, and a few scrapes so he’s been laying low.

One day last week, I packed a lunch basket so we could eat together at his apartment. We had a wonderful visit. When I asked how he was, he said he was fine, and he said it with such sincerity and brightness that I didn’t have any difficulty believing him despite the bandages. I like these visits when I have Honey all to myself. He asks about my family and my work and wants to know how I’m doing. I seem to come up with a question about his life that I had never thought to ask before. And we find some things to laugh about. Before we are through, our conversations always come around to Grandma Mary and during this visit, when we were having our ice cream with chocolate sauce, Honey brought her to us by saying, “Grandma and I liked to have ice cream after almost every meal.” This was my opening to remember her with him, to ask about her favorite flavors and to say how much I miss her. I love thinking about what they looked like when I sat across from them at their kitchen table when I was a child. He misses her so much. Spending time talking about her and remembering her together feels really important.

After we talked and cried a little about Grandma Mary, I asked again how he was feeling, and commented that his swelling had much improved from earlier in the week. He said, “Well, I feel fine, but I hurt all over.” And he meant it. Both parts. Because part of him really is fine, untouched by his soreness and his injuries, and then there’s this other aspect, the physical parts, that need to heal. It’s so interesting how clear he is that how he is doing isn’t inextricably tied to how his body feels. This idea is in the Yoga sūtras, too. One of the root causes of suffering is asmitā or misidentification (YS II.3 and II.6). When I confuse my body, my sickness, my job, my role in the family, or any material aspect of my life, with who I really am, it causes suffering. Honey gets it. He lives it. And it’s really wonderful to be around.

The yoga sūtras teach that when we connect and identify with this special place, it’s said to be full of light (YS I.36). Even though I’ve had an intellectual grasp of this concept is something amazing to see in someone. It’s how Honey lives. He is full of light and I’m so grateful for his example. To see this in him and in how he lives is so meaningful. He brings this teaching to life and his special way of understanding himself (most everything, really) makes him such a pleasure to be around. I aspire to be able to say, “I’m just fine” no matter what else is going on in my life because I can stay connected to this light within me and remember who I really am.

Married, part II

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People Places Things — it’s a  movie

Dave and I have been back together for Married, Part II for a couple of years now. The hurt and the tumult of our separation isn’t so close to the surface anymore, though occasionally, a memory from that time will come up and I can feel it’s presence even if I’m not actively thinking about it. Like when you have gas… you can go about your day, but you aren’t as relaxed as you could be.

One evening last week, with the girls in bed and Dave out of town, I snuggled up on the couch to watch a movie. I picked one from the ‘quirky comedy’ list and, turns out, this story is about a couple navigating separation and co-parenting after divorce. With this story playing out on the screen, those gassy feelings I mentioned moved into the realm of fully conscious reflection. I could relate to the confusion, the excitement, and the parenting negotiations that went on with our hero and heroine. I appreciated the story telling that gave time for the uncomfortable stuff that’s a part of divorce. I was happy, in the end, when the two of them were able to move on.

Memory is such a funny thing. We might forget something that has happened to us, the details may fade, we may remember something correctly or incorrectly, or imagine something. However they come about, and in one form or another, these experiences stay with us. In the first chapter of the Yoga sūtras, Patañjali presents us with 5 functions of the mind, one of which is smṛti or memory*. In YS 1.11 he defines smṛti as the “unthievable record of your experience”**. Untheivable… can’t be stolen. I love that because it is totally true.

Memories don’t leave us, but as we create more memories, the old ones do change and can be refined. After the movie, I went to bed but didn’t fall asleep right away. I was having a lot of old break-up feelings.  They are so different now than when I was in the midst of it. Back then, I could feel my heart race and my body respond over the littlest reminder. This time, they didn’t overwhelm me.

Time heals. Yeah, okay. But the thing about time passing is that in that time, we have other experiences. Time spent laughing together, really listening to each other, offering care and feeling loved – all of these things leave their own memories and record behind.   These experiences have more power than the break-up ones once did.  The new experiences are the ones I want to connect to, and am trying my hardest to create. As a result, these new experiences are reshaping the old memories and giving rise to who we are together now.

 

 

*The 5 vṛtti, functions of the mind.

The mind can…

prāmaṇa — perceive correctly

viparyaya – perceive incorrectly

Vikalpa – create something that isn’t there (imagine or invent).

Nidra – be in a deep, dreamless sleep

Smṛti – create memories

 

*This translation comes from yoga sūtras classes I took with Chase Bossart.

Yoga Sutra I.38 – Dreams can give us insight

 

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Yoga Sūtra I.38 svapna-nidrā jñāna-ālambanaṁ vā

Inquiry into dreams and sleep and our experiences during our around these states can help to clarify some of our problems.

-T.K.V Desikachar, Heart of Yoga

 

If everyone is born with a central issue that they’ll live and work with throughout life, mine is loneliness. The feeling isn’t always acute, but every year, around Christmas, it comes up and I wonder why I’m sensitive and moodyuntil I remember, “Oh yeah. Me + loneliness… We have a thing.” Then I attempt to consider the experience as yet another opportunity to be with this feeling and to see how we are doing.

I’ve been feeling the loneliness over the last few weeks, but life continues and as you may know, our house has been home to rats since October. Though we have made a big dent in the local population, we know there is at least one hearty and resourceful survivor. We don’t see evidence of this rat every day, but then we’ll hear it running in the attic or see a nibbled piece of fruit and we are reminded that it isn’t going down without a fight.

Last night, I had this dream.

I went into my bathroom and though it was the middle of the day, it was really dark. I guess there was some sort of storm outside. As I walked in, I encountered a dozen rats just hanging out, like they were having a meeting. I freaked out because now I could see that this rat problem was so much worse than I thought. I had to capture and kill them. The rats ran out of the bathroom and I followed them into the sunny entryway of my childhood house. As the rats went along the 1970’s flecked marble-like tile, they morphed into these large, soft, docile, bunny creatures. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to capture them, but then they slowed and allowed me to pick them up.

I picked them up one-by-one and carefully put them into a paper grocery bag. Each one was so much softer and sweeter than I expected and I realized how hungry I was for gentle touch and connection. I spent a little time with each one before I put it into the bag. I had a change of heart. I knew these rat-bunnies couldn’t go on living in my house, but did they really need to be killed? I decided to call the Animal Shelter so they could be someone’s pet.

In the past, I’ve shrugged off dreams, but since studying the yoga sūtras, and seeing how Patañjali is pretty much right about everything he says, I’ve taken I.38 to heart and look for insight from the dreams I can remember. I’m pretty sure this dream has a lot to offer me in the way of better understanding myself and these feelings of the season.

These themes of connection and alone-ness, of fear and love, of avidyā (misperception) and awareness are familiar ones to me, but having this dream and it’s weird sequence, associated emotions, and rich imagery is something more tangible to work with than mere concepts and ideas. It isn’t unlike what happens after meditation. Something else takes over in meditative state and what I see or experience isn’t exactly of my own conscious creation. My self takes a back seat while something else drives the experience. At the end of meditation, there can be a feeling of “coming out” or “coming back” from somewhere kind of like when I wake from dreaming. Sometimes, the impressions from that place stay with me.  These impressions provide another little window into my being which can enrich my practice of svādhyāya, self-reflection, so I know myself better. They can show me another way of looking at a situation. Each year that comes around and I check in with this central relationship, the one of me+loneliness, my perspective is a little different and my appreciation for what it means grows.