This sutra describes the meaning of Yoga, and all other sutras explain this one. Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively towards an object and sustain that focus in that direction without distractions.
PRACTICAL LIVING “yoga” here refers to the philosophy of Yoga, the school of thought that was transmitted for centuries from teacher to student and compiled by Patanjali in this text. It can also refer to a state of mind: one which is filled with clarity, peace, wisdom and joy. The mind (citta), like a young puppy, needs to be trained. The more we train the puppy to pee outside, the more it does that. The more we orient the mind towards thoughts and ideas that are constructive, the more it goes there. “vrtti” refers to the activities of the mind. As most of us know, the mind can jump from one thought to another quite fast. It’s not so much that the chatter is bad, it’s what the chatter is about that makes it bad. What we choose to focus on becomes our life therefore we should make sure it’s something that we value and brings us joy. “nirodhah” is like being a maestro of a big symphony – there are many musicians with different instruments – the maestro is in charge of directing them all towards a beautiful place. Many of us spend hours focusing on objects (thoughts, emotions, people, situations, belief systems) that bring us anger, resentment, frustration and stress. In summary: choose – focus – sustain. What causes us not to sustain?
- FEAR: of failure, success, loneliness, abandonment, not being loved?
- DISTRACTION: the senses are powerful!
- LACK OF COMMITMENT: back to Sutra I.1 – nowadays, we have so many (or too many) choices!
IN THE YOGA WORLD We can explore this topic from another angle as well. “yoga” could also refer back to the clear state of mind one gets when they realize that there is something beyond the body, thoughts and emotions: our inner light, soul, spirit…or whatever your favorite word/concept is. In order for this to happen, a clear mind is necessary, which implies that it is not easily distracted. By “citta”, Patanjali referred to different aspects of the mind: the manas (composed of the senses, which are constantly gathering information and partying consistently in the brain); the ahamkara (the ego, the part of us that relates everything to “I”), and the buddhi (the intellect, which digests sensory information and formulates ideas). In order to move towards a peaceful state of yoga, we need to train all levels of the citta. “nirodha” refers to that training, from an agitated and energy-inefficient state, to a peaceful and detached one. Yes, in order to focus, we are required to let go of some things (more on detachment in a few sutras). As we let go, the mind becomes clearer and lighter…ahhhhhh…
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON I met this man twice in my life. Not only has he inspired me to finally begin this blog, but he also added a whole new level to it: the humanistic part of it. He reminded me that relationships are one of the most important things in life to keep the mind happy, in peace, and feel loved. His recent project, (www.thegiftprolific.com) involved spending 365 days of gifting: every day he would give something to someone and later paint about it. AND, at the end, he built a gallery at an art festival in the desert and gifted all of his amazing paintings to the lucky people who found him! A smile covers my face as I write about this person. Joshy is a living, walking and painting example of this sutra. Thank you for choosing to focus on something that was so meaningful both to you and, at least another 365 people!
Are you creating a delicious life by focusing on what you want? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and we will look at what a state of yoga leads to next week!
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Last year, i got a chance to play/train tennis with a previous yoga teacher of mine. We were just hitting within the service box (mini tennis and not full length court) forehand to forehand for a good rally of 15-20 shots. Again, no power, really just hitting softly back and forth for consistency. To my surprise, we were able to pull it and not over-hitting each other. She told me that focusing on the ball and keep hitting back and forth are almost like a dynamic meditation. She said she had to focus on the ball and not thinking about anything else. I agreed that when i come to the court, i leave everything else behind, and also just focus on the yellow fuzzy ball because otherwise, i wouldnt be able to keep it in, and for a long rally. So, in a sense, just as yoga teaches: choose, focus and sustain as we would sustain a consistent nice rally.
And as other activities go, i find that as long as i focus, and not get distracted, i can get a certain task done effectively. Easier said than done, of course and working to sustain it is truly difficult. It is something that i have to keep on practicing with the help of yoga and meditation.
I have always found it very challenging to sustain my focus on any given topic. I sometimes find that my mind wonders so much that I can lose my focus in the middle of a sentence. I think a big part of this is because I am not able to choose what I want to spend my time on. There are many different activities that I enjoy but usually those aren’t the ones that I am able to devote my time to. I usually have to devote my time to all of the tasks I need to complete before the end of the day or to my work. I think when I am actually doing something that I truly enjoy I am able to sustain my focus much better. I think the skill of being able to sustain my focus on my work (which is important to me but can also be very draining) would be a good goal as I move forward.
Growing up, I had a tuff time making healthy relationships, and I too believe that healthy relationships are essential for mental happiness. It wasn’t anything I physically did that caused people to shut me out, but the fact that I was an outgoing carefree girl that was larger in size. Despite how hard I tried with open arms, in the end not a friend was made all because my appearance and personality wasn’t accepted. Eventually as I got older, I did turn things around and met some amazing people who I’m still in contact with today. Without healthy human relationships, I don’t know where my mind and I would be today.
I often struggle to avoid distraction after committing myself to a new endeavor. My particular challenge comes from my excitement about so many aspects of this world. I love to immerse myself in so many different experiences, which many times is a gift, but also occasionally forces me to divide my time among too many things. The danger in this habit is that my mind dances from one concept to another without giving time for true contemplation, understanding, and incorporation into my life. The first sutra really forced me to ask myself, “What am i willing to give up on a journey toward a deeper yoga practice?” The 2nd sutra says, “Okay, now that you have arranged things in your life to make yoga a bigger part of your life, how much can you keep your mind directed toward your goal?” I am grateful that these sutras are resonating so accurately within my own experience of starting this yoga journey.
This is a challenging sutra. Choose/Focus/Sustain. We live in a world where there are so many choices, constantly bombarding us, promising to deliver the new next best thing. It causes a lot of problems because the world and its advertising create dissatisfaction. It is hard to know when to choose something else, or if you’ve made the correct choice. So choose thoughtfully will help with the focus and intensity of purpose that will make sustaining interest and commitment easier, maybe. 😉
I would say my ability to focus has decreased considerably since I had my kids. Someone always needs something or has a question or just wants my attention. Granted it is somewhat less as they get a little older, but it seems I have a learned habit of not getting into something for more than a short bit of time before my mind wanders. I used to be absorbed in activities for hours, even things such as organizing and reading, without a problem. Now I can hardly read for 15 minutes without starting to think about my to-do list or what to make for dinner. I have to consciously refocus myself. I look forward to changing this habit and re-developing my ability to stay focused through continued yoga practice and meditation.
I do feel like I have had to eliminate toxic relationships in my life to be able to sustain this focus. This has been one of the hardest things to do but in turn has opened up so many doors in creating the life that I want.
I feel my focus has gotten better the older I become. It’s funny, not because my brain is “smarter” but because I have realized what is really not important, and have chosen just to focus on what I love. My family, my friends and even myself.
Starting things is easy. Finishing them…that’s the hard part. I can think of at least half a dozen major projects I have taken on but not finished. Choose, focus, sustain. Prioritizing these projects has helped me choose, having made a commitment to these projects has helped me focus, and I hope to find wisdom in the next sutra to help me sustain.
Choose- Focus- Sustain
Fear- Distraction- Lack of Commitment
One of the first things that come to mind when reflecting on this sutra is the idea of quality over quantity. One doesn’t need to have a ton of things going on to be successful- it is the focus and commitment that you put into each decision that yields the greatest results, and makes you the master at what you do.
I have a wonderful best friend who has admittedly struggled with this particular idea. One week she wants to play the ukulele, the other week she wants to do kickboxing, the next week she wants to make perfume, the next week she wants to travel across the world. It has been a pattern of hers to choose to do something, and the minute that she becomes bored with it she drops it completely- although when she is actually learning the particular skill, she excels at it. Instead of feeling fulfilled with having tried all these things, it instead leaves her feeling empty and confused. After discussing this with her (in addition to weaknesses of mine), she does realize the power of focusing, and the results it can get you. It is because of this yoga wisdom that I was able to have a very constructive, non-judgmental conversation with her- and this sutra was very relevant.
Fear, distraction, and lack of commitment are INCREDIBLY powerful obstacles. It takes a great amount of focus to overcome these. However, it is also through these that I have realized what is important to me and which goals I actually want to follow through with. Sometimes, in the face of fear or lack of commitment, there is an opportunity to pursue another road- which may ultimately get you to where you want to be instead of the initial road you were traveling on.
When I was 17 I began my career in culinary arts. Because of my focus and commitment I was able to learn many positive things about myself- but also one of these being that it wasn’t the field for me. It was through my fear and lack of commitment to professional cooking that I realized a more beautiful personal goal- and that was to become an interior designer. After this realization, I moved to Chicago, went to school for design, and since have worked at a company doing office design for the past 4+ years. I think that fear, distraction, and commitment are (for the most part) negative qualities, but they can also be blessings in disguise.
I am reminded of this sutra everyday, in all of my pursuits- and I am extremely thankful for it.
I think focus and commitment (Sutra I.1) really go hand in hand. I’ve always thought of myself as a person with very diverse taste. I tried gymnastics for 3 months, track for 4 months, I worked in marketing then completely switched careers. On one hand you could see that as having a zest for life, but on the other hand it’s very commitment-phobic. So I ask myself this question: If I can’t commit to anything, how can I focus and stay focused on anything? It’s easier to focus on something you’re committed to, right? I see myself losing focus as the days pass from my first weekend of teacher training. When I am in the TT room, I am committed and focused on yoga. However, when I leave I find myself plagued by questions and guilt. I don’t have time to go to yoga 3 times, 2 times or even 1 time this week? How do I juggle yoga classes with my weight training? I have to read for class next weekend, but my roommates are outside watching the latest episode of “The Bachelor”. How do I focus without commitment and how do commit without focus? How can I learn to be more focused? What do I do if I fail and become unfocused? This sutra brings up a lot of questions for me and that brings me a little anxiety just thinking about it.
This sutra is a challenge. Being a wife and a mother many responsibilities and things get in my way of focus. Every morning, I wake up thinking how focused I will be during the day on my commitment to Yoga and then…life happens. getting kids ready for school, making breakfast for the family, chores at home (talking about a commitment… to my house), planning dinner, running errands, last minute clients for a massage/Reiki session (hard to turn away…even though I was planning to practice my yoga), picking kids up from school, feeding them, taking them to after school activities, doing homework, feeding them again, bath, reading…and then my husband comes home….it doesn’t end. By the time kids go to bed I am ready to go to bed. But I do have to break the cycle somehow. Now, I am sitting and finally focusing even though the boys constantly are talking to me. I told them how mommy needs to focus on her studies, they find it difficult to change their habits of knowing that mommy is always available. I did make a choice to commit to yoga and now I have to become a little bit selfish(in a good way) in order to focus completely and sustain it. Wish me good luck.
Considering the amount of time passed since my last post, I feel a bit sheepish commenting on this particular sutra, but ishvara pranidhana. Teacher training and this goal of true concentration taught me how to study. School came pretty easily to me, and I got through on wit and a sort of learning by osmosis (write notes to my boyfriend all day but absorb enough lesson to get by). Now when I read, memorize vocabulary, or record my thoughts. I save myself the television and music for when I can appreciate it. I’m satisfied with the act of learning now. Perhaps one day I will read and write with the same single point focus it takes to stand on my head!
Whenever I read a new sutra or text on yoga, I always have the same thought, “it is all just about common sense”. What would make me happier other than committing heart and soul to that thing that makes me happy? Seems like the most reasonable conclusion to arrive to after one has decided to enjoy life as much as possible.
Well, putting a practical example on the table, I have decided that bringing green power to the world would make me happy. And there is a series of steps I have to take in order to achieve that. However, it is tricky. This accelerated mind of mine likes to jump around and bring to my attention scary thoughts about how bad it would be to fail, how sad I would be if results are not what I expected, how would others perceive my progress, or lack of it, and what about all that comfort I currently have that I would have to let go?
Well, you know what? when I distance myself from all this and clear my mind, I realize that it is not achieving the goal what would make me happy. It is the way there, the learning, enjoying, and specially failing and committing to do the effort to improve and figure out a solution. Commit becomes a reachable goal when you let go of the fears and just embrace the joy in each day.
It is true, today we have too many choices. Even the simplest of choices like apples at the grocery, a dozen different types! Just as with many other choices, we may become confused and then, many times we don’t choose, we walk away and let fate take over. In which case we find ourselves unhappy. So much of my life has been spent avoiding, running and neglecting myself. I became too busy for many things including friends and family and mostly me,
Each day we witness short attention spans. People cannot just sit in stillness like on the train for example, most are on their phones playing games, checking email, frantically looking for someone to text… Distractions will never allow focus to happen, I was once part of this group. Not allowing myself to simply be.
Most recently I have had much pain due to my own choices or lack of making a real decision, and the payment is pain. The good news (and there is always good news) I have made a commitment to to myself as if I were to marry myself, to now purge the crap, junk, illusions; to let go, commit to me, to focus and rejuvenate my life to be the wonderful masterpiece it was meant to be. Lucky for us, we can all make this choice to make things different.
Make the choice. MARRY the choice. Have a happier life.
I find that my focus more often is directed toward others than on my own passions, dreams or purpose. It’s very difficult in a life filled with responsibilities to remember how important it is to lead a life and focus on what I want when there are all of the daily distractions. In my case, my responsibilities revolve around helping others, so since I am helping “fight the good fight”, my actions could be described as a focus on doing what I love. However, this almost brings me to a place of (very light) resentment because I focus all of my energy on others. I think to truly be happy, we all need to take care of others, but also ourselves in the process. I’m still working on this.
I notice that the last time I wrote on this blog was in Oct 1 year ago, Since then I have completed 200 YTT, a commitment I made to learn more about yoga and myself. Something I found helpful, essential to sustaining to the YTT was having a Study Buddy. It speaks to the person described in this sutra, Josh, and his insight into the importance of relationships. There were times in the past year when I felt challenged to complete the training, but my study buddy held my feet to the fire and at the same time lovingly reminded me of why I chose to make the commitment. I feel so good having completed this journey I am thankful for yoga teacher who enlightened and guided our group to a deeper understanding of ourselves through yoga and to my study buddy who helped me sustain my focus on the importance of the journey.
Thank you study buddy for keeping this jewel in teacher training!
This sutra asks us to choose, focus, and sustain. While the concept seems simple, it is not so easy to follow in a world filled with distractions and temptations pulling people in many directions. It is easy to say that someone will focus on something, but the act of actually doing that is challenging. For myself, this can often become a problem because of my habit to over-commit to too many things. Perhaps I am fearful that if I don’t help as many people as possible, no one else will do it. I always follow the belief that if you are able to help you should do so, but that does not mean that anyone else holds the same belief as myself. I do not feel that distractions effect me as often as they once did when I was younger. I have developed a stronger capacity to remove the distractions and focus my attention. One thing I must be aware of, however, is how much of a toll my commitments and focus have on myself. As I stated in my previous post on Sutra 1.1, I tend to spread myself out too thin. This can sometimes cause more harm than good and I must choose wisely what I want to focus my attention on rather than try to focus on everything all at once.
This sutra asks us to choose, focus, and sustain. While the concept seems simple, it is not so easy to follow in a world filled with distractions and temptations pulling people in many directions. It is easy to say that someone will focus on something, but the act of actually doing that is challenging. For myself, this can often become a problem because of my habit to over-commit to too many things. Perhaps I am fearful that if I don’t help as many people as possible, no one else will do it. I always follow the belief that if you are able to help you should do so, but that does not mean that anyone else holds the same belief as myself. I do not feel that distractions effect me as often as they once did when I was younger. I have developed a stronger capacity to remove the distractions and focus my attention. One thing I must be aware of, however, is how much of a toll my commitments and focus have on myself. As I stated in my previous post on Sutra 1.1, I tend to spread myself out too thin. This can sometimes cause more harm than good and I must choose wisely what I want to focus my attention on rather than trying to focus on everything all at once.
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This sutra is a challenge for me. Choose, focus, sustain. I love to be open to new things, so sometimes I feel like a butterfly moving from one idea to another. So I think I choose too many things. I try to give focus to everything, and I think I am doing a really good job committing to all my “pans in the fire”. But if I am truthful to myself I am really not focused. If I would choose one thing, focus only on that, I know it would make a difference. I am a person that once I commit to something I do carry though, so sustaining is the easiest of the 3 for me. But I really think I need to focus on what I am doing at that moment and not trying to do 5 things at one time. I love Yoga because it really helps me to step out and pause and notice. ahhh
I know that I have some relationships, very close ones, which cause toxic and negative energy in my life. I am certainly excited to be able too learn to focus better on the positive to lighten my brain!!
Choosing to start a new project, adventure or interest has never been difficult for me. I love to try new things, meet new people and be creative in new ways. That being said it is my ability to stay focused on those “new” endeavors that I find extremely challenging. I guess I could blame it on my focus of other people’s needs but I know this is not the truth. It is all about letting go of my fear that I won’t be able to master whatever it is, perfectly! This often leaves me feeling discouraged making the sustainability of any endeavor nearly impossible. My hope is that Yoga will help me retrain my mind to focus without any distractions allowing me to live with clarity, peace and joy. It has already made me aware of my fears and more focused in some areas of my life……..amazing!
Choose- Focus- Sustain
This is a tough one for me. I need to really work on focusing on the positive. I have some relationships, close relationships, which bring toxic and negative energy to my life. I can’t wait to be better at this to lighten my mind!!
Focus. Committing to focus! I feel I can focus on a work project fairly easily and I can definitely re-focus/push away my negative mind by keeping my mind “busy” with other things. To make a conscious effort to focus to clear my mind or to meditate/visualize is important to me and has been something I have always wanted to achieve. If i can achieve focus I can sustain. I definitely feel the beginnings of this process during breathing exercises and posing practice. So exciting!
I think that it is interesting that the things I focus well on are the things that I love and enjoy. For instance gardening and art. I could focus on this intently to the point that the sun is setting and I can’t account for my time because I was so focused on one of these things. If you take the love and joy out of the equation I loose all focus. I can’t consentrate at the grocery store. I get stressed about spending money, and reading the labels on cans to find the healthiest food, and trying to get the best price for a certain ounce can. I get distracted by the lights and the smell of produce, and then I see a new product and my mind starts wondering about what else I could add to it to make it a meal. If I go to the store I have to prepare myself. I have to have a budget. I have to have a list. I basically have to set an intention to help focus my mind. Sometimes I find myself with a mantra being said over and over as I walk through the isles “Stick to the list.” I struggle with focus. But, I am learning to yoga even at Walmart.
Focus is a huge struggle in today’s fast paced world. Add my anxiety & depression to the mix & often times I am completely overwhelmed by life, to the point of having no action because I’m not sure where to start. But since beginning therapy over a year ago, I am learning to look within again, to find myself & allow her through. A big part of any issues I’ve had almost always begin with me, with self care (or lack of), with being conscious of myself & my role in life, as well as who I am. This yoga training is helping me deepen all of this, & I am so grateful for finding it!
Oh, the importance of self-care, beautifully said! Commitment to taking care of ourselves: yum!
Although we (often women) pride ourselves on multi-tasking, the brain really only focuses on one thing at a time, yet has the ability to rapidly change directions which gives us the sense of doing a million things at once! However, one of the greatest gifts one can give is “undivided attention” to someone and even to yourself. Giving that focus to someone who needs a listener or finding focus within yourself is powerful!
Love this: “one of the greatest gifts one can give is “undivided attention” to someone and even to yourself”!
Yoga. choose. focus. sustain. This brings to mind a quote my son shared with me this week. Everything you do is either for health (wellness) or illness.I am a nurse. A patient came into the office this week. I said to her “You look so good, so healthy, so vibrant.” After thanking me, she shared she had given up facebook, instagram and cable. She said she was minimizing her time with negativity. I share this story because I believe she is a great example of yoga. Overcoming multiple health issues and having a positive attitude. I am so blessed to have patient’s I connect with. I hope to focus on wellness to lighten my inner soul and spirit.
Beautiful story Donna! Thanks for sharing. And yes, other people can be great teachers for us 🙂
I always considered myself as being able to keep my focus pretty well until I started learning more deeply about yoga. I started realizing that while I could stay on task with things but I wasn’t fully present. I never realized that often I would just be “going through the motions” not really being in the moment. Also since becoming aware of this what I choose to focus on has shifted. How easy it is to focus and fixate and overthink on the negative things that may have happened through the day. I’ve consciously have been working more on letting the thing that don’t benefit my mind go not holding on to it, and being more present in my day to day allowing myself to experience just being in the moment and trying not to let my mind drift as much. It wasn’t until I started actively practicing doing this that I realized how much I was taking for granted throughout the day.
Wow, so much awareness!