Patanjali Said What?

Yesterday during yoga training, we spent a bit of time going over the take home exam and receiving our individual teaching lessons for the in class exam.

It’s doable.

For the teaching portion, I am to instruct Adho Mukha Savasana or Downward Facing Dog. my personal nemesis. Down Dog is one of the most basic of poses and it’s one that I am still finding my self in. Every new teacher, workshop or training session shines light on Down Dog. It’s like “the pose that can do anything” because it is always the same yet different every day.

I am also presenting a sutra. Cat assigns each of us one or a short set of sutras and asks us to present/teach it to the rest of the group. Mine is 2.16 – The pain that has not come is avoidable.

And I thought? Seriously?

Because I am sort of – okay – completely – of the theory that we have destinies. Our life paths are not necessarily carved in stone as we are free to embrace or reject experiences, lessons and universal directions, but for the most part, “pain” is as “life” is. We are mortal and therefore subject to all that entails.

You know “bad things happen to good people (and bad people and people of morally ambiguous natures too).

But as I thought about it last evening – and you know me, that’s about all I thought about because I am as bad as a dog with a new chewie when it comes to things like this – I realized I was looking at pain as though it was a condition of certain experiences rather than a choice, an add-on.

Pain is an “a la carte”.

And suddenly, like the revelation of the widening of my sacrum in down dog, I think I got it. It’s about attachment or non-attachment. I can experience without attaching pain. I can detach my experiences from pain when it tries to add itself to the order.

Most obvious example is death. Losing someone is sad but sad is not painful. It’s just sad. I can experience the sadness without attaching pain to it. It’s simply sadness. I feel it for as long as I need to … and I let it.

Acknowledge. Move on.

That’s what an asana practice is preparing me to do. That’s why we chant, practice pranayama and meditate. To gain the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual strength to let go, detach, life from pain.

The suffering does not make you stronger. Letting go makes you stronger. Feeling the sadness without allowing pain to muscle in, distract and take over is the point. Pain is a choice.

Even on a physical level, a person can detach from pain with the strength of the mind alone.

But pain is still there. It doesn’t go away. It’s just our perception and/or experience of it that makes all the difference.

I think. Maybe.

Gotta get ready for training. Happy Sunday. Namaste.

4 thoughts on “Patanjali Said What?

  1. I agree with the fascinating in a scary way part in your last comment. I also believe the same about pain… pain is all around us yet, if we can control our MINDS, pain does not need to hurt us. My step daughter just asked me the other day how I feel when my patients die… I tried to explain this seperation to her but it didn’t go well… (side note, a classmate died in a tragic car accident the VERY next day, maybe she will understand what I said now at least, or explore it further…)

    I think I’ve got this seperation thing down though. Having my patients die, my husband die, I am confident with my own ability to seperate my emotions and physical responses. I do however believe that pain still needs to be addressed though because physically it can still affect us, if mentally we can block it. Am I making sense? For example, when Ryan died, I knew I could choose to let the pain in, however when I would block it, it would manifest itself into another physical ailment, like nausea, vomiting, GI upset, etc. I would inturn let myself experience some of this pain and these other symptoms would subside…

    Hmmm…. now my brain is all awake and thinking this morning!

  2. “The suffering does not make you stronger. Letting go makes you stronger.”

    wow. a lesson for those who feel that wallowing brings strength.

    1. My feeling is that people who get stuck reject the idea that strength is cultivated in our reactions to and ability to rebuild after tragedy. In some respects, they are correct because letting go/rebuilding is a choice.

      Patanjali would say – and this is my take only – that “tragedy” and suffering are neither good nor bad but take on the qualities that we project onto them based on our level of preparedness and level of non-attachment … I think. This sutra stuff? Fascinating in an awesomely scary way.

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