स तु दीर्घकालनैरन्तर्यसत्कारासेवितो दृढभूमिः॥१४॥
sa tu dirgha-kala-nairantarya-satkara-adara-asevitah-drdha-bhumih
PRACTICAL LIVING In addition to that (sa tu), this practice is firmly rooted (drdha-bhumih) when it is thoroughly (asevitah) nourished by long-term commitment (dirgha-kala), perseverance (nairantarya), positive actions and devotion (satkara), and intense enthusiasm (adara).
- length, duration, endurance (dirgha-kala)
- continuity, perseverance, non-interruption (nairantarya)
- actions that are positive, fair and honorable (sat-kara), or a devout attitude
- confidence, zeal and enthusiasm (adara)
Length and endurance (dirgha-kala) remind us that this is not just about doing our asana/pranayama/meditation practice at home or at a yoga studio. Practice (abhyasa) is about practicing awareness throughout the day. Frequently, especially in this “immediate-results” society, we try a practice or class for a few days and because we have not seen ‘magical’ results like weight loss, toned buttocks, loss of pain or problems resolved in 3 days, we assume it is the wrong practice and we look for something else. Patanjali is telling us to practice patience and perseverance (nairantarya): whatever takes us to a more peaceful, calmer and self-aware place needs to be done for the rest of our lives, without interruptions. Looking back at 2012, I see how I was practicing the art of “immediacy” when I bought tap dancing shoes and took 6 classes before I got distracted with knitting classes and the shoes ended up on the bottom of the shoe rack.
The next idea of this sutra emphasizes the concept of devotion and enthusiasm. Whatever we decide to do (jobs, having children, coffee with a friend, reading a book, writing about a sutra, going on vacation…) requires a positive and engaged attitude. This enthusiastic energy will help us commit (refer to Sutra I.1) to whatever we decide to do so that we can maintain the practice for a long period of time and experience the state of Yoga (refer to Sutra I.2). In positive psychology (a fairly modern branch of psychology), research shows that we reach a state of “flow” (otherwise known as complete absorption or samadhi in yoga) after engaging in one activity for, on average, 10 years with vigor and devotion.
Can we begin to add more devotion by dedicating fully to our lives and to every activity we choose to do? Pick one activity or relationship and begin your practice (abhyasa) with enthusiasm and perseverance!
IN THE YOGA WORLD In India, it is common to tell stories to get specific points across. There is one Hindu story about the great Maharishi Narada that clarifies this sutra. Narada would travel from Heaven to earth to see how humans were doing. During one trip he encountered 2 students:
- The first one had been meditating for so long that an ant hill was built around him. The student saw Narada and asked him to find out how many more births would he still need to meditate for. He told Narada he’d been sitting for a long time and begged Narada to find out.
- The second student was jumping, dancing and singing with joy and when he saw Narada he asked him to find out how many more births would he still need to dance and sing for.
Several years later Narada walked by the same spot and the responses were:
- The first student was told that “You have to take 4 more births”. “Four births????!!!!! Haven’t I waited long enough????” exclaimed the student. The student began to shout and lament.
- The second student was asked by Narada to count the leaves on the tree and the student replied he could. Narada told him he had time to count them since Lord Siva said it would take as many births as the number of leaves. The student responded “Is that all? So at least there’s a limited number. Now I know where it ends. Thank God he didn’t say the leaves of the entire forest”.
Shortly, the second student received a message that Siva was asking him to go to Heaven since he showed he was willing and patient enough to live all of those births showing enthusiasm.
The point of the story is that if you are patient, your mind is more settled and what you do will be more ready. If you are unsettled and anxious to get the result, you are already disturbed; nothing done with that disturbed mind will have quality. So, it is not only how long you practice, but with what patience, what earnestness and what quality also. In life, we will most likely feel anger, greed, pride, lust and envy. This is part of the journey and that is why we need to be persistent in our practices. We will probably come up with excuses not to practice (as I write this, my family and friends are sunbathing and playing in the swimming pool and I have succumbed to this and other excuses not to sit down and write this sutra), this is normal. But reminding ourselves (with kindness) to maintain our practices with enthusiasm, devotion and persistence will keep moving us towards a steadier state of mind 🙂
Agzi is a magnificent sister, friend, mother, wife, yoga student and yoga teacher! As a sister, with the numerous siblings she has, her thoughtfulness and generosity has been immense. As a friend, she is delightfully fun to be with. As a mother, her devotion towards her daughter is awing: this little being is so lucky to have her as a mother! As a wife, her long-term commitment and strength is firm and ongoing. As a yoga student and yoga teacher, Agzi has been so dedicated, enthusiastic and committed. Every student who crosses her path is receiving a jewel as a teacher! Agz, thank you for playing so many incredible roles in my life. I love sharing my life through the lense of yoga with you! You are a constant reminder of how I want to live my life! Love you sooooo much!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and we will look at the other side of the coin: detachment (vairagyam)!