|PATANJALI’S YOGA SUTRAS: MORE ABOUT SUFFERING
In our last issue, we noted the five major causes of suffering that Patanjali discusses in the Yoga Sutras—spiritual ignorance, egotism, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life or fear of death. These are the main challenges we all experience as human beings and do our best to overcome. We know that as the wheel of life turns, we do have to experience some pain, but suffering is the self-torment we add to magnify the original difficulty.In the Yoga Sutras, Book II, Sutra 16, Patanjali writes— “Suffering that is yet to come, can and is to be avoided.”
Think about this notion for awhile. How can suffering be avoided? How can YOU avoid suffering over the things that get you unnerved? I know that releasing feelings of misery is not always easy, especially when we are drawn into dramas with others.Well, if we can spot, at its onset, our tendency to torment ourselves over something that is happening or not happening, we can choose to shift our consciousness and let it go. Then if it comes back to mind, we may need to repeatedly shift and let it go again until it becomes less and less gripping.
For example, I have been stopped for speeding and given a ticket by an officer more than once in my lifetime. (Messages from the Universe to slow down!) The last time I decided to not go through all of the dramatic upset I add by lamenting, regretting, blaming myself, pleading with the officer, and running over and over in my head all the ways I could have spent that $100 fine and all the fun things I could have enjoyed doing more than spending a day in “bad driver school.”
This last time, I simply admitted that the officer had caught me red-handed. I was grateful that I could afford to pay the $100 fine, and that it was only money and not worth my giving it any more energy. So I remained quiet and composed as the officer wrote and delivered the summons. I drove home slowly and immediately filled out the summons, wrote the check, stamped the envelope, put it outside in the mailbox, and let it go. A good mantra to remember is – “My peace is more important than this.”
This Yoga sutra (aphorism or saying) that suffering can and is to be avoided was translated by one of my teachers as—“The only suffering that can be avoided is that yet to come.” So why do we spend so much time re-running our movies of the past and adding an overlay of new misery? It’s as if we relive the experiences, making them part of a foreign film, giving them “suffering subtitles.” The idea is to cease tormenting ourselves over the past and be mindful to short-circuit future suffering by shifting into our higher consciousness. And how can we achieve a higher consciousness to carry us beyond suffering? Pantanjali’s answer is — by practicing the eight limbs of yoga. The photo in the upper right corner shows a mother and daughter from Kansas, Doreen and Karen, practicing the seventh limb, meditation, with no signs of suffering! In our next few issues, we will start our review the eight limbs of yoga.