{YSP} yoga sutras of patanjali 1.1: the power of now

I was thinking something maybe fun/interesting to do would be a short series of blogs and thoughts about patanjali's yoga sutras. I'm currently in a 500 hour yoga teacher training (I know, I haven't talked about it at all...yet...) and my teacher was saying how we'll mostly focus on the first sixteen sutras - sometimes called the "sweet sixteen" and that eventually she'd like us to have a working explanation/definition of these sixteen sutras. so, like, if someone came up to me and was all, "oh-em-gee- what's this yoga stuff?!" I could hypothetically give an answer based on philosophy instead of just being like, "dude, totes like bending over and putting your foot behind your head and stuff." (clearly, I'm just kidding...I hope it's clear anyway. ha!)

I'm using Edwin Bryant's edition of the sutras for a few reasons. first, I kind of know him. I mean, we're not like chums or anything, but my oldest daughter's (madhavi) father used to rent a room from him and so I kind of got to know him that way - like when I was picking up/dropping her off and stuff. also madhavi and Dr. Bryant's daughter are about the same age and they would play together in the summers. He also hosts (or at least used to - not sure if he still does) a kirtan at his home every so often, and I used to go pretty regularly. I have so many friends who have studied with him (as he is also a professor at Rutgers). He is also a follower in the krishna-bhakti/vaisnava tradition, which makes me feel like his commentaries/interpretations are soundly based in the same tradition that I follow. he also has a british accent. this actually doesn't have anything to do with anything other than it's just kind of cool.

so I thought I would just take it one sutra at a time and just give some thoughts. now, seriously, anyone who knows me knows that I'm the least philosophical person out there - so these are literally just my thoughts. let's not get carried away thinking that I know what I'm talking about or that I even remotely believe that I think that I know something.

now that we have that all straight... let's get to it.

the first sutra reads:

अथ योगानुशासनम्॥१॥
atha yogānuśāsanam

Dr. Bryant's translation is "Now, the teachings of yoga [are presented]." I've also heard this translated as "Now is the time for yoga," which a little bit speaks more to my thoughts on this verse. so I'll kind of jump between notes I took and my thoughts...

- initial verses of any sacred text usually begin by announcing the specific nature of the subject.
- he (patanjali) starts with the word atha, which means "now".  
now... like right now, in this moment, we are going to talk about yoga. not yesterday, not tomorrow. dude, right now. and me, patanjali, I'm about to tell you all about it - yoga - what it is, what it isn't, and how to get it and do it. 
but also, now is the time...because everything in the world is so f'ed up that we need to get down to business immediately... which leads to my note from Dr. Bryant's commentary...

- when we exhaust all else, then we come to this...the highest: yoga.

who was the first person to realize this was the way to go about it?

- when Hranyagarbha wakes up on top of the lotus, he is immediately overwhelmed - so he stills the mind - this is the first practice of yoga (and is a total hint about the definition of the word "yoga"!!)

so patanjali ...

- picks up the scattered pieces (about yoga) from the puranas and herein gives us the essence.
- by using the prefix anu patanjali himself indicates that he (is not the creator) is continuing something (in terms of explaining yoga) that has already been started.

my summary for this verse: there's no better time than right now for yoga. come 'n get it.


things that I find comforting

here are some things that I find very comforting, both when I'm not feeling so great and just in general.

- hot tea. usually green.

- popcorn. buttery, with salt and nutritional yeast. a big ass bowl of it!

dog not necessary.

- a law and order marathon. usually svu, but I'll settle for any variety if necessary.

- cheese. as in mac'n. and french fries. ok, basically carbs.

- eka pada rajakapotasana. dead style. held for at least five minutes on each side.

this isn't the dead variety, but you get the idea.

- closed eyes. dark room.

- chocolate. in pretty much any form.

- hearing my guru's voice.

- a hand and/or foot massage.

there was another one that I thought of and I've been sitting here for the past five minutes trying to remember what it was... oh well. this list is pretty comprehensive.

tryin not to, bro.


signs and symptoms of my depression

this is today...

- it feels like I am moving through water. everything is slow motion.

- there is a constant lump in my throat, and/or I am on the verge of tears at all times.

- I'm hungry, but I'm not in the mood to eat. I'll eat, but I'll eat pretty much whatever just to make the feeling of hunger go away.

- things that residents say that would normally not bother me make me angry. very angry.

- I can't even get myself to go out and get my daily iced tea fix. because seriously, who cares?

- I simultaneously don't want to be around anyone and want to be near people. (I think this is actually that I don't want to be around anyone, but I also kind of know that being around people will make me feel better...)

- The urge to curl up into a ball in a dark cave becomes almost irresistible.

- I think about how I do care what other people think of me, even though under "normal" circumstances I can easily pretend/convince myself that I don't.

-chocolate doesn't help.

a drawing by gita govinda titled: "mommy eating a doughnut and a carrot",
which has nothing to do with my signs of depression,
except maybe that eating a doughnut might make me feel better.


faith, surrender, and anxiety

oh, hey.

so I was kind of sort of thinking/wondering about the relationship between faith a surrender because I had to put together a potential yoga workshop...like, I could make the theme of the workshop whatever I wanted as long as I had a corresponding story to go with it. so anyway, I had this idea to have a wall workshop centered around the interconnectedness of faith and surrender wherein I used the story of Draupadi's disrobing in the Mahabharat. so I wondered which is the appropriate term for "surrender" - because in sanskrit there are a few... pranidhana, saranagati, saranam...anyway, that's just the back story to why I thought this little excerpt I'm about to share was neat.

after I had already written out the workshop, I was listening to this class from my guru maharaj and found this little portion quite applicable to some things I was thinking about. I thought it would be fun to share. because sharing is caring and stuff.

just as a side note: remember that this is my transcription of a spoken class. so the grammar and whatnot may not be perfect, because maharaj is speaking it. and also this is a small section of a bigger class... which incidentally, you can find here.

from Sunday, September 14, 2014: class on Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 1 Chapter 6 Text 16.

"[…] Faith also means saranagata. Faith means surrender. What’s surrender mean in Sanskrit? Saranagata. That you go for shelter. You’re confident. You’re confident that that relationship with the divine that you will maintain in every way. You lose any type of fear that you have. You become fearless. I was thinking today that all anxiety is connected to the desire to enjoy and control. All anxiety practically speaking. Because what’s our anxiety? That we’re losing something, or something is not going to go our way… it all has to do with control of the world. I was thinking, you know, and I’m watching…at least I hope I’m advancing a little bit that I can watch my mind…and even if I can look at it, it’s so real sometimes these… and I just see, you have one major anxiety and then somehow you get over that major anxiety and then the next day you have some other anxiety. Something that was so unimportant the day before when you had that other major anxiety. And then when that major anxiety goes, then that minor anxiety becomes so real. So many silly ways in which we wander, but one who has faith, one who has devotion, one who has love…then his happiness is within his own hands. Because it has to do not with his destiny, what happens with one, but with one’s freewill, how one is responding. It doesn’t matter the external circumstances. […]"


sri vyasa puja: #ddsvp2014

yesterday was the celebration of my guru's birthday, otherwise called sri vyasa puja. it was a great day spent glorifying his kindness and mercy. here is my offering to him for this year.


Dearest Srila Guru Maharaj,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to you!

As I write this, it has been less than a week since I was fortunate to spend the weekend in your association at the annual Bhakti Immersion retreat. As I’ve settled back (unfortunately) into material life and the spiritual haze has (unfortunately) lifted, I keep coming back to one moment during the weekend…

It is late Sunday morning – the last maha-kirtan of the weekend. I am standing in the back, not dancing in ecstasy like everyone else. Though I am chanting and clapping, I am mostly just watching. Towards the end you come over to me and tell me how happy you are that I am here. At first I think you are probably just saying this to be polite – not that I am doubting your sincerity, but it is more that my insecurity tells me there’s no reason for you to actually be happy about me being around. But then you say something that is so simple, but goes right to my heart: “You’re really a part of this now. I’m so glad because this is what I’m about,” you say as you point to the kirtan, “this is who I am!”  I choke back tears. I’ve done nothing to deserve such kindness. This is truly your mercy.

When one first gets to Vrndavan sometimes the actual arrival is mundane – perhaps just pulling up in a Tata Sumo and finding a room at the MVT. But you always say that a person has to actually enter the dhama – through kirtan and sincere prayer. And that moment, when it actually happens – entering into the dhama – is an amazing feeling. That’s what this moment from the retreat felt like – as if I had entered, somehow, some deep part of our spiritual relationship.

I have struggled a lot recently with the idea of bhakti as love, and what that means in a practical way and also spiritually. I heard several times over the days of the retreat how this bhakti-love is not a feeling that washes over you like in an illusory romantic kind of way, but that it is cultivated and develops over time. I often doubt whether I am capable of giving or receiving such a deep kind of love. It seems so complicated and unreachable. And just see how easily you gave it to me.
I feel like I say this every year, but it is truly the thing I am most grateful for: Thank you, Guru Maharaj, for never giving up on me and keeping me around, despite my attempted escapes. I can only pray to continue to receive your mercy and love.

Always your servant,

Kadamba Mala devi dasi

photo by kisori radha devi dasi. the look on maharaja's face cracks me up!