I know this sounds obvious but it isn’t. This week, I came across two articles where really intelligent people, I am talking about a PhD and a well known teacher in a non dual tradition, took a few bad examples from dualism traditions, and used them to sum up the whole tradition.
We all know that a few bad apples don’t necessarily mean we need to throw away all our apples. Even though a few people had car accidents today, we all continue to drive. Even though a few planes have fallen out the sky lately, we still fly. Even though we have had a few horrible relationships, we still interact with humans, make friends, have kids, and seek new loves. However, when we get triggered, we throw this logic out the window. We immediately start collecting evidence to prove that, if one apple is rotten, the whole bunch needs to go.
One of the purposes of yoga is to learn to recognize when we are being triggered.
” The restraint of the modifications of the mind is yoga. Then the Seer abides in its own nature. At other times, the Self appears to assume the forms of the mental modifications.”-Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2-4
In these verses, Patanjali is telling us that we will have thoughts that make us forget who we are and that we must learn how to use restraint. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali contains many lists of triggers. The Vrittis, Kleshas, and the Obstacles and their Accompaniments are a few. Patanjali wanted us to be aware of them, understand their root cause, which is ignorance of the Self, and not fall pray to them.
When successful people, “good” people, “spiritual” people, our parents or anyone we feel is supposed to be beyond reproach turns out to be the bad apple in the bunch, the mind goes bananas. It threatens our view of a safe world that has a certain order. If this person is not good, nothing is good. If a successful person comments suicide, then all such success must be unreal. This idea is easier to deal with. We don’t have to think or use discernment. We can just throw out the whole bag of apples and be done with it. This is not reality and it is not yoga. In realty, we all know that, the actions of one does not reflect the whole. We know this because we have been the good apple, in a batch of bad ones and we did not want to be thrown away and treated like the rest. This very idea is what got rid of my hatred of men.
I was raised in a church that felt that a woman’s job was to keep her man. I watched women fight to keep men who were cheating on them and treating them like dirt. I will never forget a car trip with a few of the ladies in my church. They were discussing another woman who was being physically abused by her husband. One of the women said something to the effect of, “it is hard to get a good man. She needs to figure out what he needs and make him happy.” I was stunned. This type of conversation had the opposite effect on me. Instead of worshiping men as the head of the family and as demigods, I hated them. I carried this baggage with me for years. I put up walls against all men because eventually, they were going to show, what I felt, was their true colors. In my mind, they were all womanizing cowards. When I left home, I had a few personal experiences where I was accused of doing things I did not do. Due to a narrative in their heads, some people that I wanted desperately to love me, turned away instead. I started to become aware of how I was doing the same thing in other areas of my life to other people. Just like I wanted the benefit of the doubt extended to me, I had to extend it to others. With men, I needed to use discrimination. Long story short, I have been married, to a good man, for almost 20 years.
Yoga teaches discernment. The Yoga Sutras says that uninterrupted discernment is the method to remove ignorance and that the 8 limbs of yoga is how we awaken the wisdom of discernment. As yogis, we are not throwing the baby out with the bath water. We are figuring out what needs to be nurtured and what needs to go down the drain.
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.