Sutra II.17 “The conjunction between the seer (you) and that which is seen (everything around you and your experiences) is the cause of suffering to be avoided.
This is a tough sutra to decipher, yet It is SO helpful in the way I choose to live my life that I am going to do my best to explain it. March is a month associated with “luck of the Irish” and “good luck”. Luck by Webster’s definition is “a: a force that brings good fortune or adversity b: the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual.”
Last year, I was working very closely with a student suffering from depression and anxiety. She would come for session and ask me “Why is God doing this to me?” and “I have the worst luck.” It was a beautiful opportunity for me to teach through physical asana, pranayama and sutra work (mantra) how to change one’s perspective to AVOID suffering. Had she suffered some major physical, mental and emotional setbacks? Yes, without a doubt, yet the problem wasn’t in the original diagnosis, surgeries and appointments that followed. It was that in her own mind, she had given up control and power over her being. The seer was at the mercy of the seen! It is the challenge I love most about my job….getting people to understand they are the master of their own destiny! So, what does all of that mean exactly?
Let’s start with the physical. I work with people one-on-one. With each person, I teach how to move energy and the body so they learn something about themselves. With this particular person, I created a sequence of backbends and forward bends. Why? To expose the heart, stretch the chest, protect the heart and stretch the back. I then added retention (a pause without holding the breath) after inhale to assist in calming anxiety and long exhales to help with depression. After the student became more comfortable with the physical and respiratory aspects of her practice and could feel what they were doing for her body, we added mantra. Mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated which expresses someone’s basic beliefs. It works to imprint an idea. I use it very subtly and always tell students, “You don’t have to think about what the words mean. Just say them. Say them openly. Let them just land inside your body with no judgement or preconceived definition attached to them.”
Once the groundwork is set with a complete yoga practice, we work during each session to make the mental shift necessary to learn about choice, thoughts, mindful movement and thinking, power and life. Yoga is a medium to teach people that no matter what is happening in life, good or bad, right or wrong, they get to decide what to do with it. They can choose to suffer. People do it all day. They complain about what happened “to” them. What about the choice of looking at a circumstance as just that? Something that happened. Period. Stop adding the second part. The purpose of the sutra at the beginning of the article is to remind people that suffering is a choice. If a person chooses to see the facts and not add a million adjectives to an experience, things get easier and healthier. Using a physical asana practice as a place to start makes it easier to learn new mental processes because it provides a safe place to practice it. So, the next time you are complaining about “bad luck”, try to catch yourself. It is not bad or luck. It is just life.
mind and spirit!