Tag Archives: Yoga sutra 1.36

Fierce, sturdy, and powerful

There’s a sūtra that I’ve always loved,1.36 viśokā vā jyotiṣmatī. It describes an inner resource that some people have (or discover) when they are navigating a difficulty in life. My teachers share the meaning in this way; There’s a place within us that is full of light and untouched by grief. For those who are able to connect with this place during difficult times, it can keep the difficulty from becoming an obstacle. Our connection to this special place within can help us to get through.

I’ve always thought of this place as calm, peaceful and almost mystical. Imagine one of those religious paintings where the sunlight is streaming through bright clouds to indicate that God is there.  That’s what I imagine that my insides look like…full of light – jyotiṣmati. This feeling is beautiful, it’s an ideal, and it transports me to a pleasant place in my mind, but I realized it might be more fantasy than something I’ve actually experienced in my body.  During times when something really horrible or frightening or devastatingly sad has happened, I can’t say that there was any way for me to put on the half smile, go inside to feel rays of radiant sunshine pouring through me.

Something occurred to me during work with a student in the last few weeks. This student was practicing yoga in the midst of a scary and life-upending event. It was one of those things that marks life in periods of “before” and “after.” And in the quiet moments between all the upheaval, do you know what she found right along with all the fear, uncertainty about the future, the hurt and the anger? She found an inner resource that assured her she was going to survive this. She had energy and clarity that let her know, even with all that was going on, she was going to be okay. There was still pain and hurt, but it was eclipsed by this special knowing. Once you feel that, I don’t think it goes away. It’s yours. It’s something you can come back to. It’s full of energy and light. Viśokā vā jyotiṣmatī

I know this feeling.  It isn’t light shining through the clouds, but more like a raw, deep and primal survival feeling. It comes with a certainty that know I can do what it takes to make it through.   The feeling came to me when I was at my most vulnerable. It was during this time that I found a super-power underneath all the stories I had told myself about who I was and what I was capable of.  When all of those stories exploded, that survival superpower was there and I knew that not only would I make it through the shit show, but I was different because of it. I have within me a source of power that is connected to something fierce, sturdy and powerful and will fight to fully live.

I think this might be what Patañjali is talking about in I.36. This place isn’t touched by grief or sorrow. It’s powerful. It’s connected to survival. Not everyone has encountered the place within that will blaze and burn brightly with clarity and strength when things seem at their darkest. But for those who have, it is a resource, a deeply kindled super-power that keeps even the most devastating events from holding us down.

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.