Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Yoga Sutra 1.2: Pain is real, so why add suffering? (sometimes a glass of wine is just a glass of wine)

Yoga Sutra 1.2: Pain is real, so why add suffering? (sometimes a glass of wine is just a glass of wine)

Zuri sees Miss Ely at the Mall

Zuri’s Aunt Jasmine, the one who works at the bank downtown, takes Zuri to the mall a couple of times a year to buy some school clothes and have a nice dinner. It is one of Zuri’s favorite things. Her life feels so normal when she and Aunt Jasmine are walking through the stores, bags in hand, trying to decide what restaurant to go to.

Zuri and her Aunt Jasmine spent time in all of Zuri’s favorite stores. Her feet were getting tired. This afternoon she got a new pair of jeans and some really cute long sleeve shirts for fall. Zuri likes the sleeves really long so that she can pull them down over her hands when it get’s cold in school (and at home). She sneaks long looks at her aunt. She sees Aunt Jasmine’s bright smile, her beautiful skin, and her warmth. Zuri is so happy Jasmine doesn’t drink like her mom does. Zuri’s Aunt Jasmine explained to Zuri that their grandmother drank so much that she eventually became very sick and had to go live in a special place. Zuri wonders if it was rehab—like Jayla’s mom—but she is afraid to ask. She sort of doesn’t want to know.

They decide to go the Cheesecake Factory, which is super great. There is long line and they wait. It is a huge place and she starts people watching. Zuri sees Miss Ely from School, her science teacher. Miss Ely is laughing and smiling and talking to a man. It seems like she is on a date. Oh no—wine, a glass of wine. Zuri’s heart sinks. Miss Ely has a glass of wine. I see Zuri’s face drop, feel her heart drop. She looks away fast and lowers her eyes. She feels ashamed, somehow, for seeing Miss Ely drinking. Its weird but she feels like she did something wrong, like she is bad for seeing.

Their buzzer goes off. Their table is ready. Zuri can hardly breathe. Her mind is racing. She is terrified, “Oh Gosh!” They are walking right by Miss Ely.

“Zuri! Hi!” Miss Ely says as she stands up to greet Zuri.

Zuri feels shy, “Hi Miss Ely.” Long pause here…….

“Hi, I am Zuri’s Aunt Jasmine,” her aunt interjects.

“Zuri is one of my most favorite students. She is such a bright girl. She is going to do whatever she sets her mind to! It is so good to see you Zuri and so nice to meet you Jasmine.”

“You too.” Says Zuri’s Aunt Jasmine. “We won’t keep you. Enjoy your dinner.”

“Goodnight Zuri. See you in school.”

Zuri struggles to smile, head down. They are shown to their table deep into the dining room, far away from Miss Ely.

Zuri’s aunt asks her what is wrong. Zuri won’t say. She is so sad about Miss Ely and the wine. Her aunt presses, “Zuri, girl, what is it?”

Zuri explains how she feels. She says that she is so worried about her mom and that she hates alcohol. She said that she is so sad that Miss Ely is drinking too. Getting it, Zuri's aunt explains that for some people wine is okay. She says that it’s tricky, but that for some people it is perfectly okay to have a glass or two of wine. She explains that some people don’t get addicted and that they don’t struggle. She explained that alcoholism doesn’t run in some families like it does in theirs.

So, she explains, just because Zuri saw Miss Ely drinking wine, it does not mean, necessarily, that Miss Ely is an alcoholic.

At home and in bed, reading her Yoga Sutras (yes, she thinks- I WILL read this whole thing). She reads sutra 1.2 about the turning of the mind. She wonders if she was doing just what the sutra was saying at the mall when she saw Miss Ely.

She thought it through. She saw miss Ely and then her mind quickly judged what she saw. Right away, Zuri thought that what she saw was very bad. Then, her mind starting running on the ideas. Her thoughts went deeper into the implications of what she saw and how bad it was. Her mind kept turning and thinking until she got to feeling-- not just bad, but that she, she was bad.

It was like these sutras explained. And she noticed that as her aunt clarified that it was all okay, she could go back to just seeing Miss Ely and not judging and not being afraid, sad, or shamed. “Wow” Zuri thought. “There is a lot to learn here.” Sleepy, she sets down her Yoga Sturas and closes her eyes thinking good thoughts about Miss Ely.

The Process:

Sutra 1.2 Yogash chitta virtti nirodhah

Here are three of the interpretations:

1.     We become whole by stopping the turning of the mind (Roach & McNally, 2005)
2.     Yoga is the control of the thought-waves of the mind (Prabhavananda & Isherwood; 1953)
3.     Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of mind (Bryant, 2009) 

According to Roach and McNally (2005), these are the most important words in the entire Yoga Sutra. Similarly, Bryant (2009) suggests that Patanjali has nearly summarized the entire system of yoga in this sutra.

Roach and McNallly (2005) tell us that pain is real and truly does hurt us, but the turning of the mind can add to this pain.

Prabhavananda and Isherwood (1953) break it down into steps:

Step 1: Manas- receives impressions gathered by senses from the world outside of us.

Step 2: Buddhi- classifies impressions and reacts to them (e.g., This is good or bad, safe or unsafe, pleasant or unpleasant).

Step 3: Ahamkar- claims impressions (i.e., I see) and stores them as one’s own knowledge (i.e., I know).

For Zuri, this would be like this.

Step 1: I see Miss Ely drinking (the seeing).

Step 2: Drinking is bad. When my mom is drinking bad things happen. Miss Ely’s drinking is bad (the classifying).

Step 3: I know this. I am going to get stressed. Miss Ely might not show up for work. She might not be okay. I feel bad for seeing her. I am wrong for seeing her (i.e., knowing and identification).

It is the false identification (see step 3) that can add suffering to pain (Prabhavananda & Isherwood; 1953). In a similar way this process is described in the post on the Buddhist Psychological Model (see previous post).

For Zuri, it could also be like this.

Step 1: I see Miss Ely drinking (the seeing).

Step 2: It may be good it may be bad. I don’t know. Some people are okay with wine. I don’t need to decide right now if this is okay or not (the classifying).

Step 3: I am just at the mall with my Aunt Jasmine. I am happy. I am getting ready to eat cheesecake. I am a little girl who saw her teacher and that is that (not-self, non-attachment).

It is not easy to stop the turnings of the mind. As Zuri, you, and I go through the Yoga Sutras we will learn lots of ways to stop the turnings of the mind. For us, Patanjali provides a path, an 8-limb path, toward self-regulation and peace of mind. Sutra 1.2 sets the stage for what is coming and there is a lot to learn.  

So sweet dreams and know that sometimes a glass of wine is just a glass of wine : )



For an overview of the people in Zuri's life go here:

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