So Hum

Posted February 28th, 2013 by Erin under Student Writings.

Yoga has been a catalyst of upward spirals and growth in my life. It has been a grounding, centering, and purifying practice to shine light and metabolize darkness. As discussed in class, we all have darkness whether it be unprocessed emotions or experiences that seek light and want to be “purified” or brought to the surface. This year, deepening my practice of yoga by home practice of various sequences and postures coupled with engaging in the Yoga Sutras, various readings, and pranayama has been highly transformative and I’ve only just begun to lick the surface.

This transformation has rippled and spread into all areas of my life, improving the quality of my work, relationships, and overall state of being. These last few months of deepened practice have lead to a more focused and luminously lucid presence. As mentioned in class, when we chant, sometimes just visualizing or making those vibrations call its meaning to the present moment, awareness of yogaś citta-vrtti-nirodhah almost in a way calls stillness to the present moment. Having previously only associated yoga with the physical practice or āsanas as Bryant discusses in the Sutras being a common Western interpretation to yoga, engaging and exploring the principles and greater meaning of yoga has rooted my practice more deeply in truth and transformation.

With this awareness of the greater meaning of yoga comes challenge. These philosophies and practices are not effortless and take much abhyāsah (practice), yatnah(effort), patience, and devotion over a long period of time (Sutras 1.13 and 1.14). In my pranayama home practice, I grew bored doing the same thing after just a few days. I thought “gosh, I already know how to do this.” Then, I observed that while isolating the senses and breathing into the eyes, I was not nearly present. I was focusing on the nose, or the next sense organ in the exercise.

Although simple, this observation reminded me the importance of “the beginner’s mind” and my tendency to decide that I “know” something. As Hartman explains inthe article, “if we decide we ‘know’ something, we are not open to other possibilities anymore.” After sitting with this realization for some time, I felt a spark, a new attitude to the practice that each time feels like the first time, present “to explore and observe and see ‘things as it is’..full of curiosity and wonder and amazement” In class, while practicing Utthita Trikonasana, Eileen mentioned doing the pose for decades and each time finding something new to learn. Yoga challenges my willingness to not be an expert, letting the fixed view go and cultivating the beginner’s mind.

Similarly, the observance of the natural breath without letting the ego manipulate really challenges the way I think and feel. In this practice of just observing the breath, I notice a strong tendency of wanting to do a better breath or a deeper breath, almost seeking a result and being disappointed if I can’t deepen my breath in that moment. Noticing this samskāra and working to “restructure the lens of ahamkāra” is meaningful work.

Spending the last year traveling mostly alone, I sure learned a lot about myself, my patterns (samskāras) and tendencies, both negative and positive. Although I am blessed to love my work in local agriculture so much, I noticed a tendency to fill every waking moment with commitment. Almost to a point where when I had free time I spent it fulfilling commitments or seeking more commitments to fill. A citta filled with vrttis, constantly in flux. Realizing this was powerful. A beautiful friend sent me a passage from a book I haven’t yet read but will someday (The Way of the White Clouds): “when every detail of our life is planned and regulated, and every fraction of time determined beforehand then the last trace of our boundless and timeless being, in which the freedom of our soul exists, will be suffocated. This freedom does not consist in being able ‘to do what we want`, it is neither arbitrariness nor waywardness, nor the thirst for adventure, but the capacity to accept the unexpected, the unthought-of situations of life, good as well as bad, with an open mind..”

This passage illustrates a very real truth and through practicing yoga I’d like to shift this negative samskāra observed in my travels and reflection, to a more positive and nourishing way of being, where I may “dwell in an open loving heart, where I may attend to whatever clouds my heart, where I may be awake in this moment just as it is.” Yoga challenges my goals of responding to my calling of my work in agricultural education roles. Although this teacher training focuses on yoga, through committing to its practice, I feel I am committing to being a better teacher or facilitator. In a meditation class in California a few months ago, a teacher said “you can’t just meditate when you feel like it and expect results” and this resonated deeply with me as I deepen my devotion to a regular practice at home. With an often busy schedule, it has been a challenge but a beautiful and transformative learning experience to be firm about my commitment to my yoga practice and setting personal boundaries honoring time for myself to just be.

Wellness is something that I value, and I believe that it is an ongoing process, a life practice, something that cannot be “achieved.” As in Nisargatta’s dialogue when he asks, “Is your mind at peace? Is your search over? There will be no end to it, because there is no such thing as peace of mind.” yoga challenges me to practice, devotedly compassionately and tenderly act to alleviate suffering. I need help exploring this balance, weaving this practice into the work and other projects I feel called to do. The structure of this teacher training will facilitate (and already has facilitated) a blossoming process in which I can find softness whether it is in a challenging pose or during any challenge in life, balancing two opposing actions in a posture or two tasks on my to do list, treating transitions as poses, and falling into grace.

I am grateful to be a part of such a beautiful community like Karuna to share a practice together with maitri karuna mudita upeksha in our hearts as we shed layers revealing our inner most purusa and fearless love of life.


Sarah Berquist is currently enrolled in Karuna’s 200 Hour Teacher Training Program. She is also a radiant and beautiful area farmer and agricultural educator.

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