Taking the driver seat
This article is about taking the front seat, driver side versus the back seat during these challenging times. A lot of us have had our lives turned upside down this part year, and as we continue to journey this quarantined lifestyle, it's important to be aware of how our attitude - both inner and outer - may have shifted. I know that in my own life, this time alone has brought a lot of scrutiny towards the meaning of practice, my relationship to it, how to adapt it to what is happening, but most importantly how to not let mental sluggish and lack of space pull me away from the mat.
In the second chapter of the yoga sutras, Sadhana Pada, literally translated to Practice foot, or the roots of practice, Patanjali explains what practice is. As Iyengar describes it "Sadhana pada carries the torch for both the spiritually evolved and the uninitiated. It teaches the complete beginner, who knows no yoga, how he may rise, through his sadhana, to the level of high aspirants". In my experience when we are riding in the 'driver seat' we are aware and in charge of our choices, able to exert will power in the right direction. It takes effort, but it takes more effort to live in a tamasic state (a state of inertia). Tamas is generated when we are overcome by any of the following afflictions described by Patanjali as the kleshas (the five causes of suffering): avidya (ignorance), Asmita (ego or pride), raga (desire, attachment), dvesa (hate, dislike, anger), and Abhinivesha (attachment to life, fear of death, clinging to life). When these states of being dominate and color our experience of relating to ourselves, others and life, we suffer. We are no longer in the driver seat and in control of our minds, we are in the back seat totally unable to steer our direction, enslaved to the rollercoster of emotion. In order to reclaim the driver seat we need to exert will power. Will power manifests as sadhakas (or practitioners) as exertion of discipline towards maintaining a dedicated, attent, devoted attitude towards our practice. Sadhana is practice, abhyasa is the art of practice, it is the attitude with which we practice. This is key. In order for the practice of yoga to serve us as a tool of spiritual growth it must be done in a non mechanical way. We all have days where just showing up is good enough, and that is fine, but it is important that we remain vigilant to that attitude. Having a teacher helps with keeping the tamas away. I've found that when you don't have a teacher it can help to turn towards a community or to a sacred text.
I write this today because I had began to loose my way, masking it behind not having time as a new mom with no help. But when I felt the flame of my love for practice begin to burn out I knew I had to turn to something to help me back in. I picked up Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and began reading the Sadhana Pada. Reading a few lines was enough to rekindle the so well tended fire that is within me. We all have this fire. It is of absolute importance that we are in direct contact with it at all times, that we are aware of it's state, so that when it begins to dwindle we can find something that will help us back in the right path. This may be a teacher, a text, a friend...whatever it is. As sadhakas it is our outmost responsibility to keep tending to this fire. Patanjali says there are 3 key things to keep the practice alive: Tapas, Svadhyaya, Ishvara Pranidhana. "Tapas is the blazing desire that burns away the impurities of the body, senses and mind. Svadhyaya is the repetition of sacred mantras and the study of sacred texts in order to comprehend one’s own Self. Isvara Pranidhana is surrender of one’s body, mind and soul to God through love for Him."-Iyengar.
You need a little Rajas (action) to spruce up that thick layer of tamas and then ease off and ride along doing just a little fire kindling to keep your driver seat. Until something else comes your way and pushes you out of your seat and then you begin again. When you do this enough times you begin to know, you know the second something begins to feel a little off and are able to fine tune yourself back, with a little kindling. Then it’s not so much a back and forth, the opposite ends begin to even out nothing really throws you way off the path, until it does but then you know how to make your way back. Yoga is so forgiving it’s always there to help you understand what has gone off path.
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