Yoga Promotes Equanimity

citta vrtti is like ripples on the surface of a lake - yoga promotes equanimity

A client recently said to me, “I can’t practice yoga because I feel too unsettled.”

“What do you mean?” I replied.  “Do you become unsettled when you do a practice? Or do you mean that you feel too unsettled in your life?”

Her answer implied that she felt too unsettled in her life. She felt that if she could just get a little more stable or settled that she would then be more dedicated to a practice. Until then she would just have to be satisfied with our session once per week.

In my opinion, this is not the way to develop a yoga practice. Life is unbalanced and unsettled. We have to get on with it and do our best. Anything worthwhile requires consistent effort over time even when life is a little bit unsettled. The irony is that the whole purpose of yoga is to approach balance, to be on the path of becoming psycho-spiritually settled. Yoga promotes equanimity.

 Yoga Promotes Equanimity – Levels Of Truth

Let’s be clear, what most people refer to when they talk about yoga is a physical practice consisting of some postures and some breathing exercises. A high percentage of those people only practice asana – the postures – and they only do them when they attend a class. Sure, they may know there is more to it than the postures but that is their practice. So to create a foundation for discussion we have to take a step back from the physical practice to one of the most basic tenets of yoga.

ripples on water - yoga promotes equanimity

Citta reflects calmness or disturbance much like the surface of a lake.

The second sutra in Patanjali’s little book of goodness states that ‘yoga stills the fluctuations of the citta.’ The reason I left that one word, citta, as a transliteration of Sanskrit is because it doesn’t translate very well. Some people claim citta is ‘mind’, others ‘consciousness’, others ‘mind-stuff.’ It’s been called ‘the memory bank’and described as the surface of a lake… either calm or rippled. Hopefully you get the idea.

Citta is the totality of consciousness available to us at any given time and the medium by which we perceive the world. Hmmm… sounds complex, doesn’t it? One of my favorite ways to understand it comes from I.K. Taimni in his commentaries on the sutras called The Science Of Yoga (not to be confused with the modern title The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards by William J. Broad which deserves a review on this blog at some point in the future if only to show that, well, he doesn’t know much about yoga… ) but I digress. Back to Taimni who explains citta this way:

“It [citta] is like an intangible screen which enables the Light of consciousness to be projected in the manifested world.”

Now that is juicy… I like that!

What Levels Of Truth?

Level of Truth #1: There is some dispute or disparity in the yoga world regarding the second sutra. Most commentary explains that yoga stills or attenuates the fluctuations or ripples mentioned above. But there are a few knowledgeable and well-practiced wise ones that believe this sutra should mean ‘yoga requires the stilling of the mind stuff.’ This is a subtle but important difference. Personally… I think both schools of thought are correct and are actually different levels of truth.

The method of yoga described in the second book of the sutras will help with the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind-stuff. Then, with that foundation in place, the next level of psycho-spiritual growth is possible. More on that later… way later! For now, let’s stick to the most common translation.

Now that you’ve established what citta is (or at least you have some idea)… and you know that yoga stills or attenuates the ripples or fluctuations that occur as part of life… then you can get back to how this relates to your ‘practice’ of yoga.

Level of Truth #2: Some people, teachers of yoga included, seem to think that there are certain pre-requisites to practicing yoga. You might even mistakenly believe that some of the things I write imply that I believe that. Don’t be fooled by anything or anyone into believing this. On the other hand… another Level of Truth is that your practice will be more effective and your progress faster if you are willing to create a foundation for your practice.

The first untruth that you have to overcome is the great untruth of preparedness. If you wait to practice until you feel prepared to practice you will die unprepared and unpracticed. However, if you simply begin where you are, without judgement, and get on with it, you might find that ‘unsettled’ feeling slipping away. It might be that your practice becomes your time of grounding, your one absolutely settled part of your life. You might even find that through continued practice and grounding that you actually start  making better decisions and suddenly, one day, find yourself ‘settled.’

You see, yoga promotes equanimity, and then for higher planes of consciousness equanimity is required. So don’t wait. Get on with it. Start now.

 

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