Through the process of cultivating practice and detachment, one gradually transitions (anugamat) from a superficial (vitarka) understanding of the object* to a deeper comprehension (vicara), leading to a state of joy (ananda). Then the object is gradually understood in totality (samprajnatah) where the individual is so much in union with the object that he/she is oblivious to his/her surroundings.
*object = behavior, thought pattern, emotion, activity…
PRACTICAL LIVING Yoga, at its most profound level, is transformational. On a practical level, this sutra presents the formula for change. It describes to us what to expect in the process of acquiring new behaviors and letting go of old ones. At the beginning of any new endeavor (riding a bike, knitting, a new asana, a new job…) we struggle (vitarka) since the skills required for that new activity need to be learned and developed. With continuous practice, it becomes easier (vicara) until some time later we actually enjoy it (ananda). At some point that becomes part of who we are (walking, talking, driving…things that once were clumsy and difficult are now second nature). Eventually, we master that and understand it with depth and all of its details (samprajnatah). According to Positive Psychology, it takes a person, on average, 10 years to reach this state of complete understanding where there is complete absorption – when one is fully taken by the experience – what positive psychology calls “flow”.
In other words, we have the potential to absorb new behaviors and they become who we are. According to my teacher, Robert Birnberg (see Sutra I.6) “authenticity is overrated”. In the stage of vitarka (of replacing one action with another) it does not feel authentic – it takes time to feel authentic therefore “fake it until you make it”. As I observe teacher trainees begin to teach yoga classes, I remind them of this stage of vitarka, it’s difficult, but with experience and commitment (see Sutra I.1) it becomes second nature.
How can you can apply the concepts of this sutra for self-care and changing behaviors to make yourself happier? It is important to choose a constructive new behavior (see Sutra I.2) and avoid the cycle of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (what some refer to as insanity). I will start by reminding myself that moving to a new city is hard at first (vitarka), but that with time, it is joyful (ananda) and becomes part of who I am (asmita-rupa)!
IN THE YOGA WORLD Another interpretation of this sutra is the journey of calming the mind, increasing self awareness and experiencing our true nature (see History). As we develop more self awareness, being able to observe and change our behaviors, thought patterns and reactions, transformation occurs at a gradual pace. This sutra reminds us that the journey of growth is like a dimmer switch, where the light brightens a little at a time, as long as we remain committed to the practice. It reminds us to accept where we are at, and understand that this will change as we dedicate ourselves to growth. Since it is a step-by-step process, we are reminded of patience as well. Sustainable change occurs gradually. Letting go to the attachment of fast change is important! “samprajnatah” in its deepest understanding is experiencing our inner light, our true Self, our fabulous inner joy and peace. And like Patanjali describes, this takes practice, time and plenty of detachment :).
This woman has taught me a lot in just the 6 months that I have known her! She is my “study buddy” for a yoga therapy course I am taking in India. For 3 weeks we had to work together on assignments on a daily basis. And since June, we have tried to skype on a weekly basis. I admire how she has devoted herself to these teachings and has step-by-step become more and more knowledgeable, perhaps having left the vitarka stage. Her attitude towards her daughters is beautiful to observe. She seems to take her life one day at a time and has been implementing powerful changes to her life. Is everything peaceful and joyful? Of course not! But this woman has the energy to dance through life with immense dedication to make inspirational changes within her! Vidhi, thank you for the beautiful exchanges, the love, the friendship and the sense of humor throughout this crazy yet incredible journey!
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 how this experience of inner peace advances as well.