- New Recurring Weekly Column: The Yoga Sutras in Daily Life
- Yoga Sutras in Daily Life | Sutra 1:1
Devanagari / Transliteration:
अथ योगानुशासनम् ।। १।।
atha yogānuśāsanam ।। 1।।
Translation: (An amalgam of several professional translations)
“Now, the teachings of Yoga are expounded.”
On the surface it sounds rather straightforward, and not very worthy of deeper exploration, leaving the reader eager to skip ahead to get to the juicy teachings that follow, but that would be a disservice to both the reader, and the profound nature of his body of work.
Be Here Now
The first word Patanjali chooses to utter is ‘now.’
In my opinion the ‘now’ that he references is the very essence of the enlightened state.
The moment at which an aspirant becomes completely aware of the fact that all there is, all there ever was, and all that will ever be are a contiguous series of present moments, and that Yoga–union with the body, the breath, the mind, and Universal Consciousness–can only ever be experienced when one trains their Self to become completely immersed in the present moment.
This is the ultimate goal of Yoga, and of life itself.
Think about it for a moment. When do things happen? Do they happen in the past? No. Things have happened in the past, but is there anything we can do now to change them?
Things also happen in the future, and yes, through planning and execution we can certainly make decisions right now that will mold our future, dwelling too much in the future can be as big of a trap as dwelling in the past–it can be a distraction from the present moment where life plays itself out for us.
When we train our minds to pay close attention to the ‘now,’ we gain far more wisdom and insight than we would ever receive from replaying a past memory, and we also begin to cultivate faith in the fact that by choosing to live our lives out entirely in the present moment, fully attuned to our core values we will make decisions that will setup the future in a way that plays out in accordance to our highest wishes. The actions we take now, if done consciously will lead us effortlessly towards the better life that we wish for, but always seems just beyond our reach.
Practice Makes Perfect
At this point, most of you are probably wondering how one can become completely attuned with the present moment. On one hand it sounds so simple. “Just be here now, here now, here…oh shit, I forgot to reply to that text message…shit, I’m supposed to be here now…
You probably get the point. Sometimes the easiest sounding exercises are actually the most difficult to master. This is where practice comes into play, and meditation is the fundamental skill one can practice to become more aware of and present in the Now.
We are not going to get into the mechanics of meditation as a simple Google search will yield thousands of results on beginning a meditation *practice*. If you have not incorporated meditation into your self-care / self-transformation strategies, it is highly recommended by spiritual leaders of all sects and denominations, by science, and by thousands of business gurus as a means of increasing one’s performance and enjoyment of life.
Meditation is Boring
Well sure. Meditation can definitely be boring to the untrained mind because the untrained mind actually isn’t untrained at all. It is simply an unexplored mind that has trained itself.
Instead of being trained to tune into the present moment it naturally wanders as it wishes, tuning into whatever interests it at the moment, and more often than not, it decides to tune into anything but the present moment leaving most of us trudging through the day in a distracted and stupefied fashion.
This obviously presents a problem if our goal is to live the best life we can if we aren’t actively participating in it!
So if meditation is boring and difficult to master, how do we progress in our practice of attuning our awareness to the Now?
The answer comes from Patanjali himself–discipline. When he says “atha yogānuśāsanam” the meaning of śhāsanam is discipline.
So another way of interpreting the meaning of Sutra 1:1 would be to say “When, through self-discipline and clarity of intent, one cultivates the ability to affix their attention to the Now, the teachings of Yoga will reveal itself.”
Importance in Daily Life
It’s a completely fair question–what’s in it for me? And the answer is even simpler yet. Would you like to have better relationships? Would you like to become more successful? Happier? More respected? The answer to all of these questions is probably yes, and if it is there is no better time to commit yourself to the Now than right now.