Students in Karuna’s current 200 hour teacher training were assigned to read sutras I.1-1.4 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the essay Beginner’s Mind by Abbess Zenkel Blanche Hartman. Here are some of their responses.
Karoun Charkoudian, 200 Hour Teacher Training Student.
Over the past three weeks as I have been introduced to the Iyengar practice, as well as re-introduced to my own yoga practice (away from teaching) I have gained a heightened awareness around how my thoughts affect my practice, and my life. Beginning my own practice again has helped me to start to still some of the fluctuations of the mind both on and off of the mat.
Sutra 1.2 Yogas chitta vritti nrodha, defines the purpose of yoga – the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind, the vrittis. When I first started practicing at home three weeks ago, I was trying to get the practice over with as quickly as possible. The vrittis included keeping close track of time, counting breaths as quickly as I could, and just generally trying to get it over with.
I noticed how far away I was from Abbess Zenkel Blanche Hartman’s description of the “Beginner’s Mind.” Ironically, it was a glimpse of the “Beginner’s Mind” that brought me to the Iyengar practice in the first place. I remember the first time that I did shoulder stand with a chair last Spring — the engaged support – the energy went woosh through my body, and my legs were so high up in the air. I didn’t wonder about anything around me or what the clock was doing, I just felt like, wow, this is great! I felt like the child with a spoon that Hartman describes: “just engaging with it…it was a delight to see what he could do with this thing.” This was a whole new way of doing yoga, and it woke me up. I didn’t know I could feel this way after 8 years of practice – so new and refreshed. I could get a glimpse of this very “intimate” place with myself, as Hartman references.
Now that I have committed to the teacher training, I feel like getting back to that beginner’s mind is a lot more difficult. Upon this path to get back to beginner’s mind and bring Sutra 1.2 to life – in my life, I decided to examine where else I was trying to move as quickly as I can while watching the time, as I had in my home practice. Surprise — I exhibited this behavior in most of the activities in my life!
The next morning my boyfriend wanted to “hang out” and I could not be present with him, I was pre-occupied and resentful and all I could think about were errands that needed to get done. And then when I finally ran the errands, my mind was already on the next task, not able to get that done fast enough. I thought that once I got the errands done I would be more relaxed. But I wasn’t — it was one thing after the next — exactly as I had been feeling from pose to pose in my home practice. I’ve been acting this way for a long time — just the awareness of this behavior was a great first step for me. This is how my home practice is starting to challenge the way that I think and feel. Here was a perfect example of the seer absorbed in the changing states of the mind (Sutra 1.4 Vritti sarupyam itaratra). I get so lost in the chitta vrittis, I can’t see anything else.
Once I had become aware of this behavior, I was able to start to release it, and for the next few days in my home practice my thoughts were no longer on the clock, but rather focusing in the body and breath: After a particular Tadasana – Uttkatasana series at home, I felt this incredible sense of heat rushing through my arms and my hands — what a sense of “alive” it was.
Although I was able to start to find more stillness in my practice, It seems that the rhythm and discipline will take some time. I need to find a deeper place. As Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj says, “[the mind] may go blank occasionally, but it does it for a time and reverts to its usual restlessness.” And just like that, I took two days off of my yoga practice, and Tuesday morning I found myself waking up and worrying. Why was I worrying so much? I realized that I hadn’t done my Iyengar home practice in two days and it was really affecting me in the way that the mind was “dwelling in the vrittis” — Sutra 1.4 Vritti sarupyam itaratra. When I was doing a regular Iyengar practice, I was feeling a strong physical and emotional body.
I woke up again the next morning worrying, but this time I went right to my home practice. After pranayama, all the worries and thoughts (detrimental vrittis) seemed much further away. And after the Iyengar home practice, I was laying in Savasana and suddenly all of these solutions to my problems just started to float up to the top of my consciousness, just like that. I also had this “aha” moment where I suddenly felt I had all of these support systems in my life. I haven’t felt that sense of support since I moved to Springfield 3 years ago. I sat for a while after savasana just basking in that feeling of support. It was a really neat shift, on the path to yogas chitta vritti nrodha, Sutra 1.2.
According to Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, the mind will always be restless, and it is the Self that is always at peace. The sutras say that as we still the fluctuations of the mind the seer can become aware of its peaceful self and abide in that nature.
And so, in conclusion, as I continue on in this seemingly endless shift between fluctuating mind and brief glimpses of the deeper peaceful “Self” that is referred to by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Patanjali, and Abbess Zennkei Blanche Hartman, I find that patience and discipline in continuing a regular yoga practice are paramount. As I peel away the layers of emotions and thoughts, step by step I can catch more glimpses of the seer abiding in its true nature.
Janan Scott, 200 Hour Teacher Training Student
I am neither teeth nor tongue but can be like both:
Soft and mushy in places, square and clenched in others.
Teeth and tongue are the gates to the throat, this deep opening
that cocoons around the root, wet and slippery as the sources of the self.
Today I am dancing from my spine
to the humming tune of an unquiet mind.
Tomorrow will sound more quietly.
Come, I have left my door ajar because I thought you might pass
just as the shadows of the sun pass through the day.
I welcome you chattering monkey, restless chipmunk chewing
on my ear, because it seems the only way to free you from me.
Something about love, it is the only balm for the broken minded.
The chewed-upon ear, the clenching teeth and wriggling tongue.
Something about the absence of love that echoes and troubles so deeply in us.
Now will always be the beginning, new as the glowing and downy
fur of fresh chestnuts when released from their prickly shells.
I am not seeking, just opening my own chestnut skin,
peeling away old beginnings to receive new ones.
Begin again. We are always in the business of beginning,
collecting ourselves in the composted layers of all we do not know.
Often I forget this, for it is only the beginning.
Suzie Goldstein, Yoga teacher, 200 Hour Teacher Training Student
Yoga strips away
Aspects of my identity
The aspects I cling to
Fluctuations of the mind
Constantly telling me
What not to be
Showering me in the limitations of
Will I ever be good enough?
Vrttis keep me busy and unaware
Vrttis block the authentic shimmer of my heart.
Like a one way mirror,
The heart cannot be seen.
Hiding in the pervasive reflection of the mind.
Hiding in the abundant waves of my thoughts.
Yoga delivers me to my insides
Complex and churning
The waves of my thoughts crash
Against the shore of my heart
Don’t give up!
Kick up again!
The power of the fluctuating mind
Convincing me to stay away from that which stills it.
That yoga where the mind drops into the heart
And the heart drops into the mind
And there is
I am me but I am not.
I am nothing
I am everything.
A challenging place to be
To feel yourself
To face your inner workings
How do you bridge the gap from that world?
To this One?
This world inside.
To be okay in the space of my raw heart
To be okay in the space of my vulnerability.
To be yoga.
To be yoked.