We woke up to a very changed world on November 9th, 2016. The country feels divided, the future unsettled.  People are looking to their yoga practice for guidance.  Luckily, the yoga masters recognized that suffering is a part of being human and left us a guide book for maintaining inner peace even if the world feels like it is falling apart around us.  Like the old Apple slogan ‘there’s an app for that’, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras say ‘there’s a sutra for that’.

  1. Now is the time for yoga (1:1)- Sometimes people let their practice slip during troubling periods, but this is when we need our yoga the most. When things feel chaotic, seek refuge on the mat. We cannot rely on peace to come from external circumstances as they are always changing. Peace comes from within.
  1. Who we truly are is indestructible (1:3) – Patanjali explains that everything around us that we see, touch, feel is temporary. Our true nature, however, is forever. Some call it Love or spirit or Purusha. It is eternal and even if everything around us gets taken away, no one can take away who we truly are. No one can take away our ability to love and be loved.
  1. We are all connected by the sacred vibration Om (1:27)- The world feels very divided at times of political turmoil. Outwardly we seem to disagree with each other, but in fact we are still deeply connected. The sound of the earth spinning in space is the same as the sound of blood flowing through our body and that sound is the same regardless of one’s belief system. We may feel separate on the surface, but beneath it all, we are the same.
  1. Try to have compassion for the unhappy and equanimity in the face of evil (1:33)- There are many interviews of the Dalai Lama where people ask “why aren’t you mad that your country’s people have been displaced?” and he responds with the same grace every time. He often asks back, “how will his anger help the suffering of (his) people?” Instead all it would do is disturb his peace. We must not allow anyone to take our peace and if we are able, to try to find compassion and understanding for the other side. This is not to let people off the hook. This is to let ourselves off the hook of suffering.
  1. Ignorance is the root of suffering (2:3-2:5)- The human experience may evoke suffering, but that does not mean we have to suffer. Usually our pain comes from attaching to things that are temporary. Even the best moments pass and when they do we have to choose whether to mourn their loss or celebrate that we got to experience them! Because although life will have its ups and downs, as Sutra 1:3 reminds us, we are still who are we, we are still love.
  1. Pratipaksha Bhavanam (2:33)- Our brains can only hold one thought at a time and Patanjali reminds us that we can actually choose that thought! This particular sutra teaches us to seek the positive within the negative. When the world feels divided, choose to find connection.  When things feel unsettled, choose hope instead of dread. When we suffer loss, choose to see celebrate instead of mourning.  We are the keepers of our precious peace.

There is a lot of uncertainty right now as eras end and new ones begin.  The sutras remind us that even the most seemingly stable of times will end and that it is ultimately okay, because that which remains constant is our love.

Originally published on Yoganonymous November 25, 2016