Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:39: Any inquiry of interest can calm the mind.
Defining the Sutra:
Patanjali continues to list ways to keep the mind calm. In this verse, he states that anything that brings up positive feelings within you can be used to calm the mind. It is implied that this object or idea had to be pure or satvic. It can’t violate the other tenets of Yoga discussed in the Yoga Sutras or be harmful to others.
Modern Day Application:
Meditation is the act of being fully present or absorbed with someone or something. There are two schools of thought on this. Some believe that, if you are present, your whole life can be a mediation. Others believe that meditation is a technique that one engages in. From what I have seen with Ashtanga, it is both.
Sharath Jois, Director of KPJAYI school for Asthanga Yoga: “Dhyāna, meditation, it should happen within you, it’s not something you can “perform” but a process that should happen automatically within you. All your sense organs should come under your control while doing āsana. Dhyāna means when all focus comes to one point. Focus in one place is called as dhyāna. To do dhyāna you have to sit in an āsana posture. You should have a pure mind and sit in one posture and then dhyāna will happen – that is why āsana – is where you sit, how you sit – if you perfect it then you can do prāṇāyāma, dhyāna. First the physical body shouldn’t bother you. (Sharath then quotes from Yoga Sūtra 2:48 ‘tataḥ dvandva anabhigātaḥ’ ‘then pairs of opposites are no longer disturbing’). Then dhyāna is more effective. After two days of meditation you get bored, that is because you’re not ready. You have to do āsana, prāṇāyāma first to bring steadiness, then dhyāna automatically happens. It is like the process required to grow a plant. You need to prepare yourself properly. (Sharath then tells a story about Sadāśhiva Brahmendra. A great Yogi Saint from South India in the 17th century). Sadāśhiva Brahmendra’s mother found him in front of a dustbin, he was eating food from there and she was upset. Another yogī said, “Your son is not crazy he is a big yogī in a higher state of yoga.” None of us can understand; in that state of mind nothing is important. Āsana is just a tool, not the final stage of yoga.-“Sharath Mysore 2013 Conference Notes
It is important to spend the day in environments and with people that are positive and engage in activities that are satvic. If we live this way, we are constantly surrounded by positive sources of meditation we can use to calm our minds when we are agitated. Eventually, we no longer need to rely on objects, ideas, our teachers, our Yoga practice, inquires or our environment. Presence awakens naturally from within.
Why It is Important:
“Normally our batteries are weak; the teacher battery is fully charged, so he or she brings the car close to yours and uses a jumper cable, puts a little current in your battery and you go ahead. That is the sort of help we get from the teacher. But if you crank yourself and put a little current in the battery, go ahead. There is more than one way to start a car.”- Sri Swami Satchidananda
Objects of meditation are tools to focus and reignite us when our monkey mind has gotten out of hand. When the negative thoughts and the pain won’t stop coming and life feels unbearable, our object of meditation resets us. It is helpful if the process of meditation is ritualized because we never know when we will fall into inner turmoil. If we have an object chosen and a set process, we can go immediately to these objects, ideas, practice, mantras, etc when we need them. This process can also be proactive. Instead of waiting for the mind to drop into chaos, many people chose a time, place and object and sit with it daily to keep the mind calm.
Examples of Objects of Meditation
- Religious objects
- Pictures of inspirational people
- Passages from positive books
- Yoga practice
- Inspirational media
- Om Sound
- Soothing music
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 email@example.com.