Silencing the mind

“Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distractions”                                                   – T.K.V. Desikachar

That’s a translation from the Yoga Sutras, written down between 200 BCE & 200 CE by a dear man named Patanjali. Before that, these sutras, or pieces of knowledge, were passed down orally from 2500 BCE! That just blows my mind.

I somehow find great comfort in the fact that people have been trying to stop the so called “whirlings of the mind” for so many thousands of years. I was sitting in bed last night wondering what thoughts kept the ancients up at night. I wonder what similar worries the SAHMs of 2500 BCE had compared to me. When you think of it that way, I’m sure my concerns would be laughable to them. But then again maybe not. They didn’t have pesticides, cyber warfare, or the political climate of 2018 America. (but I digress!)

Night time is when my mind comes alive. That doesn’t work so well with a toddler who’s up by 7am each day. My parental instinct and night owl nature clash at times.

The thoughts that come are both good and bad – ideas and worries in equal measure. I want to think of nothing, but I think of everything. Ironically the best ideas do seem to come after focusing on nothing. Too bad it’s so dang hard to do.

But this is why I love the physical practice of yoga. When you don’t have the time or means to sit and contemplate ancient scripture, or maybe you’re not so good at sitting still in meditation for an hour, the physical practice forces you to focus so much on the state of the body and breath that other thoughts cannot coexist. If your mind wanders, you will literally fall over. What better way to keep your mind in check! To excel in yoga of both the body and the mind, you can’t think about what you need at Target or when to make it to the post office. (gah- I just remembered I have that package to send… Anyway back on track!) In our fast-paced & impatient society, the physical practice fits in particularly well. It’s beautiful meditation for our time and place in the world.

But the physical practice of yoga is just one tiny part of the whole. We can’t live our whole lives in down dog. We still have to learn how to silence the mind when lying in bed at night or driving the kids to school. We have to take what we learn in the physical practice and then apply it to the rest of our lives. That is the real challenge. Ok, Patanjali, challenge accepted.

 

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