The main principles of Yoga (session 2)

“Working in this state of Karma Yoga consciousness, there is no loss of good beginning or adverse result. Even a little effort saves one from great danger.” Gita 2:40

These are the words of Krishna to the prince and warrior Arjuna at the battlefield before the great battle of Kurukshetra according to the Bhagavad Gita. What we can retain from this verse for the purpose of this text is the fact that the practice of yoga is not dependent on any special place, special time or even special ritual. The sincere practice of yoga has more to do with a mindset rooted in several basic principles. A simple yet sincere practice is much more beneficial for the practitioner than getting lost in techniques and too much unassimilated knowledge, and most importantly, to practice yoga, you don’t need to be anywhere else than where you already are.

The Bhagavad Gita is a relatively short text composed of 700 verses (slokas) divided in eight chapters. It is part of a larger epic called the Mahabharata. It was written approximately around 200 B. C. in India, and it is one of the most important scriptures in the yogic tradition because it summarises the essence of the Yoga tradition. (You can watch this short video for a more thorough introduction) The Gita, is an invitation to observe, accept and reflect upon our perceptions, attitudes, actions and interactions, and thus through practice and patience, make some adjustments to cultivate a calm(er) mind. It describes the theories, methods, techniques and paths that can help us liberate ourselves from suffering.

You must know that disjunction from union with sorrow goes by the name of Yoga. That Yoga should be practiced with determination and unwearied mind. (Bhagavad Gita ch6 v23)

Yoga is detachment from sorrow through control of the mind and senses. Suffering comes from the misperception or ignorance (avidya) of who we are as well as our inability to see or accept the transient nature of the practical world. It is in avidya that we believe all our thoughts and perceived needs are the only reality. We identify ourselves with our limiting thoughts and desires.

According to the teachings of yoga, everything that we seek in the outside world is already inside us: peace, happiness, love, freedom, security... The starting point is therefore to gradually detach from the illusion that we are incomplete and that we need something outside ourself in order to be at peace. We practice vairagya or detachment to live life as it is, knowing that our inner self is independent and unaffected by the external transient world. Practicing vairagya allows us to live without experiencing the suffering that comes from the illusion of unmet expectations (towards ourselves, the fruits of our actions and other people), fear and unfulfilled or insatiable desires. The less we cling to, the freer we are, the closer we come to our true potential.

You can start by observing your own life and the material objects, relationships, ideas and expectations that create mental distress for you. Why do they create distress? Is it fear of loosing them? Is it frustration because of unmet expectations? Is it sorrow because of loss? What would happen if you decide to let go? It might seem like something very scary to do. You might even think that a part of you would get lost but if you let go of the fear, you might notice the feeling of freedom that letting go can bring. When it comes to relationships, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to cut people out of your life, it might only mean that you need to look at certain relationships from another perspective. What we often need to let go of in relationships is expectations. Expectations towards the other person, expectations towards ourself, and expectations towards how the relationship ‘should’ be.

Practicing vairagya can help us cultivate a state of contentment or santosha because our mental and emotional well-being is no longer subject to external circumstances. Santosha is another very important principle in the practice of yoga. Life still happens with its ups and downs, but we can be okay with both because, through practice (abhyasa) we learn to keep a steady mind. We are able to discern between what is transient and what is not (viveka).

‘Detachment brings discernment: seeing each and every thing or being as it is, in its purity, without bias or self-interest.’ Iyengar, B. K. S.. Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Kindle Locations 774-775).

The practice of yoga can at times feel lonely and frustrating. As we start learning how our limiting thoughts create distress in our life, we want so badly to change them, we want so badly to improve only to find ourself making over and over the same mistakes, falling into the same patterns of thought and behaviour. This is normal. The changes that living a life of awareness bring take time. We need to continue practicing, to continue falling and failing, to continue learning, and above all, to trust. To trust in the process, to trust in ourself, and to trust in the teachings that come from an ancient and still very relevant tradition.

‘Practice demands four qualities from the aspirant: dedication, zeal, uninterrupted awareness and long duration.’ Iyengar, B. K. S.. Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Kindle Locations 780-781).

In Spanish we say “cada quién habla de la feria según le fue en ella“, which basically means that we talk about something out of our own experience. In my spiritual path, the mentioned principles have been the most important for me to start cultivating inner peace so far, and I can honestly say that I am noticing the changes in my way of seeing and living life. So whatever resonates within you in this text, try to apply it to your own life, and see what happens. If nothing resonated, keep searching, you will find your way.

Yoga: from doing to living (session 1)

If you’re reading this post it is either because you already are a yoga practitioner or because you are curious about the practice. Take a minute to close your eyes, feel your breath, and ask yourself, what is my motivation to practice yoga? Why am I interested in yoga?

For some, yoga is associated with physical activity. Practicing yoga means to move the body, to strengthen and/or improve flexibility, maybe also to have a time in the day or week to unwind and simply spend some well-deserved self-time. There might even be the wish to slow down and reduce stress.

The physical activity that we call yoga in this side of the world is called asana in the Yoga tradition and it can be part of the practice of yoga, but it is not THE practice of Yoga. Practicing asana can be a very good way to start bringing our attention inwards by paying attention to our body and our breath. In order to achieve this, we benefit from approaching the asana practice with an open mind towards ourselves, with curiosity and without judgement. By paying attention, we will discover what are our strengths – physically, mentally and maybe even emotionally- and what are our challenges and limitations.

For the asana practice to really benefit us, it is imperative to accept our body where it is, and learn to practice – preferably with guidance – the movements and poses that benefit our body and not our expectations towards our body or our ego. It is absolutely not necessary to do extremely complicated and/or physically challenging poses to be an ‘advanced’ yoga asana practitioner. I would even say, on the contrary, if the yoga asana practice becomes another pursuit in our life, something else to ‘achieve’ to the point that we even harm ourselves, we are not practicing it to its purpose. If we practice asana blinded by our expectations and desires on how our body should be like, we are missing the opportunity to get to know ourself better.

Not all yoga practitioners do asana, and personally, I use my asana practice to slow down, to reconnect with my body and to keep it healthy, but the most important aspect of my practice is my daily sadhana. Sadhana is defined as the daily spiritual practice. The word spirituality can make some eyebrows rise since it is often associated to some sort of mysticism difficult to grasp, but in the context of this text and my own practice, it is first and foremost the attitude of constantly improving ourself in order to reach a calm and centered state of mind (Prasad Rangnekar). So sadhana, is the time we spend daily for this purpose. For some, it is a combination of breathing exercises and sitting in silence/meditation, for others it also includes chanting, and for those that want to go deeper in the understanding of oneself through the study of yoga, it also includes the study of yoga scriptures. The one scripture that is most accessible for most of us living in the practical world is the Bhagavad Gita. It contains the essence of the teachings of yoga, the theory as well as the techniques to achieve steady and long lasting inner peace. The study of the Gita is not to be used as some sort of dogma, but to understand our own thoughts, emotions and behaviours in light its teachings. The theory of yoga, if directed as some sort of light towards our inner world, can help us understand why we think and behave as we do, and then, start making some adjustments to live a more skilful and purposeful life. One must apply these teachings to one’s own life and observe what happens. Learning in the yoga tradition is very empirical.

As one advances in the path of Yoga, the line between practical life and the practice of sadhana begins to vanish. On one side, the habit of observing our own thoughts achieved through meditation can be used in everyday life to slow down, to start living life through action and not reaction. As we continue doing breathing exercises, our breath improves and we learn to slow down our mind using our breath. Finally, through the study of oneself in light of the theory of yoga, we learn to accept who we are, see our limitations, and gradually make the adjustments that are necessary to live a more peaceful inner life and thus interact with the external world better following some basic principles.

The study and practice of Yoga is not always a walk in the park, and is definitely no quick fix to all our troubles, but with patience and dedication, I sincerely can say that you start noticing slight changes in your inner world that have enormous positive consequences in the way you interact with the outer world. My advice to finish this post is, keep it simple, keep it clear. Stick to one practice, don’t jump from one thing to another to please the restless mind. Give it time. You don’t need to make any complicated pose, you don’t need any specific object, all you need is the sincere wish to go deeper, patience and guidance.

The Inner Vacuum

According to the Yoga tradition, everything we need is already inside us but we have somehow lost the connection with what we are at our core. The deepest part of us, our true Self, is complete and unshakable but covering this unshakable Self , are layers of misleading ideas we have about who we are. This is called the lower self.

The bigger the gap between our Self and our self, the more we experience an inner vacuum. This inner vacuum manifests itself in different ways in each person, and this sensation is at the base of all our uncontrolled and unconscious craving for external attention, affirmation and validation.

In my experience, I do see this vacuum at the base of emotions and behaviour that keep bringing pain for myself and others. I have observed that for me, the vacuum manifests itself as a perceived lack of love or attention from those close to me. When I feel the vacuum, I always blame it on what the external world is not doing to fulfill my ‘needs’. It has taken time and patience to accept this, and even more time and patience to convince my mind that I am ok. I still have moments where certain situations become difficult because my mind perceives them as a proof of my ‘unworthiness’, but little by little, it is becoming easier to take myself out of this limiting idea. Because that is what the inner vacuum does, it convinces us that we are lacking something and it is often because we ‘don’t deserve’ it.

Other people try to fill the vacuum with objects, with food, with projects, titles, goals, experiences… I am not saying that any of these things is wrong. There isn’t really an absolute right or wrong way to try to live a fulfilling life, and we all do whatever we can to feel satisfied. However, if you find yourself constantly running after or away from something, constantly stressed about your life, you might want to consider this idea. The typical way to discover if we are being chased by our inner vacuum is if we keep living in the “If…. I will be happy”.

All the external world can offer us are glimpses of moments of fulfilment because everything is in constant change and out of our control. This leaves us mostly unsatisfied, craving for more or disappointed because nothing and no one can measure up to our expectations. This inner vacuum can be at the base of our constant business too.

This does not mean that we should loathe the world or our lower self, what we need to do, is learn to take them for what they are: the self is our vehicle to be and interact in the world and the world is here to give us experiences to learn to know ourself better, first the lower self and its limiting tendencies, and by letting go of each one of these tendencies, we gradually get closer to who we really are, the Self. As Jack Hawley explains in his translation and interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita:

[…]this world is a learning ground, a place to discipline, train, and elevate all beings. If we decline to learn we cannot derive the benefit of the schooling.”
Hawley, Jack. The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners (ch3 v16, p. 31). New World Library.

The ‘schooling’ is life, and we are here not to get caught up in the self and its limitations but to learn and grow to achieve a lasting inner peace and happiness. This way, we function better in the world and we fulfill our true potential. For our own good and for the good of the whole.

What is it that we need to discipline and train? The mind. To discipline the mind, we need to create the space to get to know our patterns of thought better. This needs to be done without judgement so the first step is acceptance. To accept that a limited view, an expectation, a craving is damaging our inner peace. The next step is curiosity. Ask yourself, why do I think like this? What triggers this or that emotion? And finally, little by little and with a lot of practice, start making small adjustments. Start by trying not to act on or react to the thought or emotion that you know only brings suffering in the long run, this way the mind starts to calm down in that area and eventually, you will manage to let go.

What kind of thoughts do we need to discipline and train our mind to let go of? Basically, all thoughts that lead us to believe that we are what we do and what he have, and by consequence we also are what we don’t do and what we don’t have. By identifying ourself with what we have and or do, we can easily allow sensory indulgences, expectations, and selfish desires to be at the base of my actions. The problem with this is that we never get completely satisfied mainly because the result of our actions is rarely exactly as we expect it to be so we end up frustrated or the feeling of satisfaction lasts just for a short while so we keep wanting more.

Being aware can help us recognise when our motivation to act is the inner vacuum and either refrain from acting or change the intention. A third option is to act to hide the inner vacuum for a while, but be conscious of it.

A quite common place where the inner vacuum messes up for us is in our interactions with other people. Ask yourself, how many times have you done something expecting a specific response in return? And how often have you been frustrated because the response is not the one you were expecting? If we go around believing that the world is there to fill our vacuum, that the world owes us something, we are going to live a quite tiring and frustrating life, not to mention selfish. So step nr1: have your intentions very clear, and try to understand your emotional reactions when the result of your actions isn’t the desired one. Be compassionate towards yourself and the person or people involved. Step nr2: try to move away from acting to fill your vacuum. For this, you need to start cultivating inner contentment and self-sufficiency.

In order to cultivate contentment (santosha) you can start by focusing on what you can be thankful for every day. Some people practice writing three things at the end of each day. No matter how bad your day was, there is always something to be thankful for, if only the practical things that we give for granted: a bed, food, clean clothes, etc. Contentment can then be extended also to the not so pleasant things in your life. As painful as some experiences can be, we can always draw something positive out of them. I remember the feeling of overwhelming thankfulness I have had every time I meet someone that is able to help my daughter who has special needs. I am not thankful that she was born with a syndrome, but I am thankful for the lessons I have learned since she was born, and the opportunity to meet so dedicated and wonderful people. It has also inspired me to be a more understanding and compassionate teacher and mum.

Self-sufficiency is slightly more difficult for some of us (or maybe for most of us), but it is very important. Think a bit about this one, if you were really satisfied with who you are, would you then be craving for someone else’s attention? If you truly respected yourself, would it then be so important to you that other people show respect to you? If you truly loved yourself, would you then need so badly for others to love you? All the things that you need, you can cultivate inside you, and then, you will easily see how much you already get from the outer world. You will also and most importantly be able to give more, and above all, you will be able to show compassion to other people when you recognise that their sometimes challenging behaviour comes from the same space than yours: the inner vacuum.

“Arjuna, those who have found the pure contentment, satisfaction, and peace of the Atma (the True Self Within) are fulfilled. They have nothing more in this world to accomplish, no more obligations to meet. Being in the Atma,these people are beyond karma.
Hawley, Jack. The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners (ch3 v17 p. 31).

To be self-sufficient requires (again) practice and patience. It requires our full acceptance of who we are, compassion towards ourself, and the willingness to change our mindset from seeking outside to exploring innards.

Parenting reflections

I am a mum of three. Needless to say, all three are quite different, so part of my job as a parent is to figure out ways to guide them through life respecting their personality at the same time as I try to teach them the values and attitudes I believe are important in life. That is partly tricky, isn’t it? I get to choose the values and attitudes that I think are important for them. That is why, in this role, I feel that I have to be constantly observing and reflecting and adjusting , at the same time as I have to believe in my instincts, otherwise, both my children and I would be lost in space.

Some days after the summer break had started, I had to take one of those pauses to reflect as I started noticing that I was constantly ending up in quarrels with my youngest daughter about almost anything and everything and nothing at all. My youngest is the one that challenges me the most, and it is most probably because she is so herself. She is pickier than the other two with food, she can often be quite dissatisfied with what I perceive as trivialities, situations with her friends, siblings and us parents turn often into drama, and what challenges me the most is that it is not very easy to have what I perceive as a ‘reasonable’ conversation about all these issues with her. Situations often start with me being very patient, trying to explain, she getting more and more frustrated and either start crying or answer back, to me then loosing my cool and getting all stern and teacherly.

Obviously, my way of approaching challenging situations with her is not working . I do think that my job as her mum is to point out the attitudes that won’t help her in life and encourage her to change them, but the way I do it is not working. If you have been reading my blog, you know by now that I am a student of yoga, so I use what I learn in all possible situations. Reflecting on my daughter and our challenging interactions, here are some points:

I don’t always agree with my daughter’s attitude and/or actions, but judging her won’t help me guide her appropriately. Labelling her, even if it is only in my head, as immature, picky, drama queen, or other is a waste of energy and time. She behaves in ways that don’t always help her or that sometimes create unpleasant moments at school and at home, but it is part of her learning process. When I bring my judgement to the situation, I just add negative emotion to it.

In my studies of the Bhagavad Gita, I have been trying to understand two concepts: swa-dharma and swa-bhava (2:31, 3:35, 18:47). From what I understand, swa-bhava could be translated as each person’s inner nature composed by aptitudes and attitudes, and swa-dharma is each person’s personal duty or purpose in life and it is directly connected to swa-bhava. It is taking for me some time to fully understand these two concepts, but I think that they mean that according to our attitudes and aptitudes, we bring a specific “flavour” to the roles we play in life.

I believe this concepts are taught in the Karma yoga tradition for self-reflection of our role in life, but I think that reflecting in swa-bhava as a mum can be useful too. If I stop and observe my daughter, I can see that she is active, she is social, she is caring and somewhat insecure. She needs a lot of love and attention and can be quite impulsive. I am trying now to keep these and other of her character traits in mind when challenging situations arise, and avoid trying to push her to think like I do and get all frustrated when she doesn’t. I have an example. I want all my three kids to get into the habit of reading. They sometimes read, but it is definitely not an activity they choose above others. We take regular trips to the library, and they always read there, but they don’t always want to bring a book home. The other day, we went into a book store, and I agreed to buy between one and two books to each one of them (they were on sale). She picked four, and I reminded her of my “rule” but she wasn’t satisfied with this rule (of course not). I looked at the books she had chosen and asked if she thought we could find some of them at the public library to borrow. She agreed to leave one, but still wanted three. Since her sister had only found one that she really wanted to read, I agreed to buy the three of them as I know they all end up sharing books. Until then, everything was ok but then, the weirdest (or what I think is the weirdest) thing happened. As I was standing in line to pay for the books, she looked more and more unsatisfied. After I had payed, I asked her, what what was going on? Was it because of the fourth book? I suggested we walk to the library and borrow it, but for my big surprise, she was thinking about something else. She was sulking because her sister had gotten a new bike this summer and not her, and because she wanted a new lock for her bike and she didn’t get one. In addition, her sister keeps borrowing her toys forgetting to return them to her room… To be honest, the first label that came to my mind is “ungrateful”, but I know that spitting out this word, would only make it worse. So, what is my role here? Well, in the old yogic thinking, I think that my role was just to point out how we can, at any situation, focus on what is wrong or choose to focus on what is good. I didn’t get angry, but I just said that I could see how the joy of getting three new books was overshadowed by the thought of not having a new bicycle. She had made that choice, and I could understand her frustration of wanting something new, but I would like her to consider whether she needed it or not. Sometimes we want something that we really don’t need. I told her that I love her, and that I wasn’t angry, and I stopped talking. I don’t know if this made any impact on her, but at least I didn’t get all worked up because of her “ungratefulness”. I just pointed out what I observed can be a bad pattern for herself, and let it marinate in her head. That is my role, I believe.

I must confess that I don’t always know how to react to certain behaviours from my kids but I believe my role in their life is to empower them as they are and maybe help them see the attitudes and behaviours that stand in the way for their thriving, but not to try to make them fit into my box of ideas. It is actually fun to try to be more observant of their different personalities and find ways to harmonise with them instead of keep hitting the wall with my old patterns of behaviour towards them.

I know for example that my son is easily scared when it comes to illnesses and injuries. The other day, we went to this trampoline park and my son was trying a new trick. I was playing with the other two when he suddenly came running towards us with his eyes wide open and fell on the floor beside me. It looked like he couldn’t breathe and I could see he was scared, but we wasn’t pale or blue (as if he wasn’t really breathing). I have to say that the floor disappeared for a moment under my feet and I felt a bit dizzy, but I very fast realised that it wouldn’t help him if I panicked. So I took a deep breath, and asked him to do the same. I asked him to look at me and tell me what he was feeling, but he was unable to respond. So I just continued talking to him as calmly as I could. It turns out, it wasn’t anything serious, but he had fallen hard on his back and experienced a sharp pain in his chest and was afraid he had broken his neck . My role in that moment was to stay calm for him, to try to calm him down. I think my role was to balance the situation by not to making him feel bad because of his reaction but not to scaring him more by over reacting. After a little while, his sisters went back to jumping around and having fun while my son and I sat and chat. When we finally were on our way back home, I did bring up what I observed and said that he has a tendency to let fear take over. I said that it is ok, and I am happy I was there to help him through it, but that he needs to gradually work with it, so fear doesn’t take over when he needs to stay calm. I did say that I was maybe as scared as he was, but I knew I had to stay calm to help him calm down, and that it has required a lot of practice and effort from me manage to do so.

It is curious to think how different we all at the same time as how alike we all are. We go around with different attitudes and aptitudes, different perceptions, different patterns of behaviour, but in the end, we all want the same. We want to be seen, we want to be appreciated and we want to feel safe and free. I think, some of us need more of one or another, but we all need all of them.

I think that we do ourselves and the people around us a favour by acknowledging that we all have different personalities and try to work around them instead of getting all frustrated because we don’t act and react the same way. I think that the idea of learning about swa-bhava is merely to encourage us to get to know ourselves well so we know how we act and react at all times, but also to help us decide where we need to make some adjustments to live a more skilful and peaceful life. We all know that we cannot change others but we can try to understand others better, and when it comes to our kids, we do have the opportunity to at least help them see which aspects of their personality aren’t helping them, but at the end of the day, it will be their choice to change them or not.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), there is no perfect parent, but we can at least be conscious parents by being clear about what our role in the life of our kids is (and this clarity is different from parent to parent) and try to act accordingly. I have many fears related to this huge role, probably the most important role I have in life, but I can’t let my fears dominate me, right? So I learn as I go, and in the meantime, I hope I don’t make too much damage.

Every year, I set myself as a goal, to let the overflow of energy during the summer break help me correct some of the useless patterns of attitudes and behaviours I have towards my kids. It does help, but I need to keep reminding myself, and when I’m tired, it is very easy to fall back to the old again. So another lesson to learn? Make sure to rest enough and have enough energy everyday to be a good version of myself when I am with them.

Coffee or early morning yoga practice? The dilemmas of a mum on vacation and my understanding of the idea of pleasure in the Bhagavad Gita.

“Al que madruga, Dios lo ayuda”, we say in Spanish. Basically, if you wake up early, you get a helping hand from God. For me this means that if you put all your effort towards your goals, you’ll get some help from the Universe. I thought of this recently while debating with myself on whether get out of bed and do my daily yoga practice or stay a bit longer in bed and then enjoy a cup of coffee on the couch.

I don’t always feel like getting out of bed early to do my asana and sadhana, especially when on vacation, but I know what a difference it makes in my day. Asana helps me get the energy in my body moving so I feel less lethargic and more motivated. Sadhana helps me cultivate a calmer clearer mind. Yesterday, I even got what feels like the only rays of sunlight available in days before it continued raining… the whole day…

This reminded me that it is important to keep on doing things that benefit me longterm even though it is not always things I want to do. When on vacation, a good cup of coffee while sitting on the couch is often more appealing than following the discipline of sitting in silence followed by yoga asana. The coffee on the couch requires less effort, but I know the benefits from keeping up with my practice so, most of the time (but not always), this argument wins over the pleasure of not doing anything.

I have been reflecting lately a lot about the principles I am studying while reading the Gita. Krisna is constantly advising Arjuna to cultivate a steady mind through, among other things, refraining from seeking pleasure and personal rewards through his actions. This is part of what is called Karma Yoga. I must confess that it has taken some time to understand the sense of this. It is not dogma. It is not because it is a “sin” in the way we understand the word in the Christian tradition. Seeking pleasure in the sensory world is normal because it makes us feel good, but it is not something that will bring us lasting peace of mind and happiness.

Sometimes, we believe we do something “good” for ourselves by giving in to indulgences. We even find some good explanations like feeling restless, stressed, sad, tired or bored, just to mention some. Yoga is not encouraging us to live an ascetic life, but it warns us from fooling ourselves to believe that sensory pleasures will bring lasting peace of mind and contentment.

Giving in to indulgences, especially when we loose control, can often end up on making us feel even worse than before. I have experienced to sit down for a cup of coffee with a chocolate square after dinner, and then have one square more, and one more “because it was a busy day at work” or whatever, and then end up eating the whole tablet. After the first feeling of pleasure, I feel almost nauseous and have bad conscience for not stopping after one or two squares. So the pleasure turn into a moment of discomfort.

Or sometimes I get so attached that I believe I can’t be happy without them. Because sensory pleasures have only a short lasting effect on us, we tend to seek them over and over again. Or we move from one to the next one, to the next one never being completely satisfied. It has happened (and still happens more often than not) with social media. I am tired, I know I would benefit from a good and long night sleep, but I check my mobile “one last time”. After verifying there are no important messages, I then pay a visit to Instagram, and I just keep scrolling , and then Facebook, scroll, scroll, scroll and before I know it, I will only get six hours sleep, again! What good did I get from it? Just instant reward of the senses. I’m not even sure what kind of reward though.

We are so lucky to live in abundance on this side of the world, most of us have all our basic needs covered, and we can have almost anything what we want. Still, most of us aren’t quite satisfied. We are running from one thing to another, we are tired, we are stressed. Often, because we want to make enough money to get more things, to experience more, to keep going, and we keep the circle going.

Yoga encourages us to work on building a sense of inner okayness called contentment which is independent of external influences. This requires practice and patience. Practice in the form of sadhana but also practice in every moment of our day by keeping certain principles in mind. Patience because the feeling of okayness is not going to come right away, finding pleasure in a quiet mind is not as straight forward as enjoying a chocolate, but the more we practice, the more we see the results, and these results are more stable and long lasting than the enjoyment of a chocolate.

The idea is not to stop eating chocolate or enjoying my cup of coffee in the morning, but to keep in mind that these are temporary pleasures, and the more I get, the more I want. So I need to create a very conscious approach to them. If I get my coffee, great! I enjoy it. If not, well, I can drink tea or water (haha). But first and foremost, avoid allowing the cup of coffee coming in the way for my more fruitful and balancing practice of yoga that brings more longterm effects.

At the end of the day, it all falls back to the same: I and only I am responsible of my own well-being, and I have to be very clear about what brings real well-being and what brings temporary well-being. This doesn’t mean that enjoying the pleasures of life is wrong. But if what I want is real contentment, real peace of mind, I might have to give up certain pleasures in life to work hard on a more longterm and lasting goal. It is said that those that have understood this principle enjoy the world more than anyone else precisely because they know very well the difference between temporary pleasures of the external world and the steady and balanced contentment of the self-cultivated inner peace.

Ultimately, when we read verses like this

One whose mind remains undisturbed amidst misery, who does not crave for pleasure, and who is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom. (Bhagavad Gita Ch2 v56).

It is not because otherwise some superpower will punish us. It is because any of these states of mind only create distress and is needless for someone that is trying to cultivate a steady mind.

The whole art in here, is to find the right balance, and that is a constant work in progress. In the meantime, after I publish this post, I will reward myself with a good cup of coffee ;)… if I have any left.