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A Modern Day Exploration of the Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutra Study Group

Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali

Have you ever asked yourself “Who is doing the thinking?” while having a thought? And furthermore, “Who is observing this thinking process and questioning it?” Philosophers and sages have pondered this very topic for millennia and rightfully so since that is one of the most amazing gifts of the human mind: its ability to observe and question itself, to be aware of itself, to be self-conscious…

Of course, this gift of the human mind can also be a bit of a curse at times: Have you ever tried to stop having thoughts completely? Right now, for instance, try NOT to think of a pink elephant with purple polka dots… Even if you can shut it off fairly quickly and replace it with some other thought, your mind could not help but entertain the thought of a pink elephant with purple polka dots as soon as you read the words…

And you probably also could not help but have some emotional level of reaction to the idea of a pink elephant with purple polka dots… perhaps you really dislike the color pink, or thought the idea ridiculous, especially given your love of elephants and acute awareness of how horrible it is that so many of them are still being hunted down for their ivory or enslaved into becoming tourist attractions, forced to parade rich people around while being kept in environments and conditions so detrimental to their wellbeing…

Perhaps it simply reminded you of some lovable character from a childhood story and put a smile on your face… but simultaneously, you probably also had some level of assessment of the exercise itself as well as your performance and whether you did well enough or not, whether others might be better at this than you, etc…

And last but not least, all the while, you were most likely aware, at least at some level, of the fact that you were having these thoughts and emotions…

All this probably happened in a second, maybe less, and provides a glimpse into the many dimensions of the human mind and of pure consciousness which are explored and explained in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali…

Now I have to admit there was a time in my life where the exploration of such concepts left me thinking “well that’s cool but why should I care? I have so much to do… there is no time or use for such philosophical considerations!” … sadly, that time is precisely when such exploration would have helped shed some well needed wisdom light on so many aspects of my life, but that’s for another column…(LOL)

However, it’s a good segue into how Patanjali chose to present the yoga sutras not so much as a dissertation on yoga philosophy but rather, as an effective manual for the yoga practitioner as he engages us with instructions on how we can not only better understand, but manage this instrument that is our mind and access ever deeper and purer levels of consciousness… whether or not we reach in our lifetime, the ultimate goal of yoga, which  is usually expressed as some seemingly unattainable level of freedom or liberation which may feel too lofty or too abstract, especially at first and depending on which text, translation and commentary you get it from… For myself, I prefer to look at it as a continuum we can move along throughout our life and progressively learn how we can gradually reduce our suffering and achieve steadily increased levels of appreciation, satisfaction, joy and wellbeing …

If you enjoyed this column and want to find out how you can further explore this and other related topics, please join me for a FREE Info session about our upcoming Yoga Sutras Study Group at the Lilananda studio on Sunday September 10 at 7PM. This free Info session is intended to discuss the format, purpose and structure of the study group as well as presenting the schedule and outline of the fall session (which will start on Sunday September 24 and will be held weekly until December 10). We will also introduce the suggested Yoga Sutras commentaries to explore and which the studio will have available to purchase at the time. This is open to anyone, whether you have prior knowledge of the yoga sutras or not.

 

~Anne-Marie Serre

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