“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Dr. Suess
This is sutra number five in the book, The Path of the Yoga Sutras, by Nicolai Bachman.
As a recap, I am spending this year mulling over each of the sutras, some 200 of them, and writing my commentary and personal experience with each one. I might do one a day, I might do one every couple days. However long it takes me to feel inspired to write about them. I’m really doing this whole project as a challenge to myself, curiosity-driven challenge that has two fronts: one is that I am curious if I will finish this project (I am sure I will) and the other is that even though I have done two teacher trainings, I feel my sutra education has been minimal at best. I am curious to know about these teachings more in depth, and when I was introduced to this book by a dear friend of mine and fellow yoga teacher at greenmonkey yoga, Virginia Heyburn, I loved Bachman’s writing style so much I had to commit to something that will help me remember these lessons for a longer period of time.
Behold, my reviews of each individual chapter of TPOTYS.
Viveka really stands out for me. The sutras I have already covered are as follows: atha (readiness and commitment), citta (the heart-mind field of consciousness), purusa (pure inner light of awareness), drysa (ever-changing mother nature).
The more I move into the yoga sutras, the more I understand the ones that came before it as I study the current one I am on.
Viveka speaks to me because it speaks to decision. Our ability to make decisions is one of our greatest powers as human beings. This is why the slogan for my company, Red Cheetah Yoga, is “Choose to Evolve”. The greatest decision you can make is one that will benefit yourself in order to move yourself forward in transformative and miraculous ways. And, keep in mind, you are always only one thought away from a miracle, and that miraculous thought is instantly manifested when you choose to act upon it.
Bachman’s opening sentence of this chapter is stunning: “The ability to choose wisely and separate the wheat from the chaff is fundamental to the practice of yoga. Without this ability, our thoughts, words, and actions are limited to the whim of habitual tendency and the prison of involuntary conformity.”
I love that Bachman just spoke of being present with using the words “being present”, two of the most overused words in the yoga and spirituality businesses.
To be absolutely honest, absolute all of us, I MEAN ALL of us have experienced involuntary conformity. Mindlessness. Allowing others to make decisions for us. Making unconscious decisions without regard to consequences, whether good or bad. Like Bachman writes, we all are making decisions all the time every day, from what socks to put on our feet to what routes to take when coming home from work. Our every day lives are permeated with decisions, and it is so easy to get caught up in the habitual as human beings. Habits can be one of two things: bland, lame, automatic, and “just there”, or they can be inspired, motivated and intentional.
Like Bachman writes, practicing viveka has the power to help us avoid future suffering. Educating ourselves in possible outcomes for decisions is powerful. He uses the example of a child finding a colorful mushroom in the woods and having the desire to eat it because it looks pretty, whereas a botanist or biologist will know to stay far away because they have the education to distinguish it’s poisonous harm. Education is a form of discipline, it is a practice in and of itself that we can all adhere to daily, and as I have written in pervious blog posts before, discipline is our ultimate key to freedom.
Do you choose to eat fries or green vegetables?
Do you choose to go for a walk or watch another episode of The Walking Dead marathon on tv?
Do you choose to drink sodas and sugary juices or pure, filtered waters and herb teas?
Organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible, or conventional?
Do you choose to exercise regularly, or skip it and have some extra sweets at home because that just feels good right now?
Do you choose to charge that expensive bag or scarf to your card when you know you will have a hard time paying it off, or will you make the responsible decision and save your money, when you know you treated yourself to an expensive gift already last week?
Do you choose to go to bed without brushing your teeth? Skip a much-needed shower? Skip drinking more water even though your constant dehydration is starting to make you feel tired and run down? Are you choosing to go to bed early, or stay up too late on Facebook and other social media sites and applications?
Keen discernment is so necessary in the typical American society, a society that is synonymous with the word “distracted.” We go out to eat and couples and parties everywhere are giving their phones more attention than the people who are occupying the space with them. Is this always a bad thing? No, of course not. The beauty of viveka is knowing when enough is enough of poor behaviors for your spirit and soul, and when the time is right to make the switch back to the wholesome decisions that drive your life forward powerfully.
And that time is right now.
Bachman writes that: “On a deeper, internal level, viveka can help us distinguish between our changing body and our unchanging, inner light of awareness (purusa). Without viveka, individuals identify the body as themselves-they think they are their body and nothing more. With viveka, the body is seen as an instrument only…”
Viveka helps us become more aware of our purusa. It helps us to see the cleanliness of the lens that is our heart-mind field of consciousness, our citta. It also helps to guide us in the right direction when our citta needs attention because our purusa is having difficulty boldly shining through.
I know that when I have a consistent yoga, CrossFit, and meditation practice throughout the week, my viveka ability is steady and strong. I feel I am honoring all aspects of my physical being, which gives me space to play in my spiritual, career and social endeavors. The more on point I am with my decision-making and making my priorities and priority, the easier it is for me to make powerful decisions that affect the life of my two companies, and the relative peace I am rewarded with definitely helps in my relationship with Al, my friends, my clients, and my coworkers.
Practicing viveka daily is something I have adopted to keep my life in order, and I have only started doing this consciously since Red Cheetah Yoga became a company back in 2012 when I knew prioritizing and making decisions was going to be part of the job I had created for myself. And, the best part about viveka, is that the more I turn inward through my meditation and yoga practices, the more detachment I experience to things in the outer world, because as I have been coming to understand, the outside world that is governed by nature is in constant transition, constant change, drsya. The only constant in my inner light of awareness, purusa, and the work I put in to my soul in order to let it shine through strong and clear. Which, by the way, is a lot of daily work that I get a lot of fulfillment out of doing, and I feel even more fulfilled when I am able to help others reach this experience within their own lives, whether it’s through meditation, personal training, teaching yoga, coaching CrossFit, doing a card reading for someone, or making someone a special unicorn or fairy mala.
The most important decision we can make throughout the day using our ability of keen discernment is to get curious about what it is that will make us feel complete within our day. For many of us, we have blocked this out of our awareness because we feel we must answer the need/s of someone/thing outside of ourselves: that we must become someone we are not and work in a field that does not inspire us because we are expected to go through this life tip-toeing so that we arrive safely at death with all of our bills paid for and ourselves and our children having taken no risks whatsoever.
Well, people. Keen discernment does not teach that. Does it teach responsibility? Yes. Of course it does.
But there is a greater responsibility at stake here.
That is the responsibility to your soul and your heart.
Your passion and that which makes you want to leap out of bed in the morning because you are excited just to be alive because you have SO MANY GREAT THINGS TO DO TODAY!!
Get curious about how you are deciding things. Is it automatic, or intentional? Are you making decisions from your head, or from your heart? Which would serve you better? Which are you making a priority? Which one needs to be a priority?
The more you make fully-informed and inspired decisions from the depths of your soul, the more you help others to make the same decisions, and the more you help this planet move forward in miraculous, healing, and enlightened ways.
This is what we are meant to do. This is what you are meant to do. You are meant to make inspired decisions that are a priority for you and your life, so that you may live a complete and fulfilled life, so that you have the space and ability to give others permission to do the same.
Distinguishing what changes from the unchanging light within us is a way to end suffering.
With a clear heart-mind, I can develop the ability to determine what is helpful and what is not.
I will make wise and informed decisions for the benefit of all sentient beings.
What tiny change can you make today that you have been putting off? Make that change now.
Discard of one thing in your home and office that you have been meaning to get rid of. Donate it if possible, otherwise throw it in the trash. Prioritize the things that are around you, because all things are energy, all things hold energy. Keeping extra things around will only bring the vibration down in the places you occupy and thrive.
Get curious about other areas of your life where you can practice viveka and have keen discernment. Maybe it’s relationships with people: those you choose to remain friends with or keep in constant contact with. Get curious about how other people’s energies and decisions affect yours, and get curious if the tribe you choose to keep around you is what truly is best for you and your growth right now.