Sutra I.35 – Chapter I, Sutra 35

विषयवती वा प्रवृत्तिरुत्पन्ना मनसः स्थितिनिबन्धिनी॥३५॥

visayavati va pravrttih-utpanna manasah sthiti-nibandhini

Or (va) inner peace can be created (utpanna) by becoming aware of the senses (visayavati), which helps us maintain steadiness (sthiti) of the mind (manasah).

PRACTICAL LIVING     Here Patanjali offers another suggestion in our path to calming the mind and experiencing more clarity and awareness: observe the senses by focusing on one particular object. Our five senses (smell, sight, hearing, taste and touch) continuously shower us with information regarding our surroundings. We can feel the delicate landing of a butterfly on our hand and see its beauty at the same time. We can listen to the soothing sound of the ocean, feel its cleansing powers as we bathe in it and smell and taste its saltiness simultaneously.

Patanjali tells us that the senses can be powerful in different ways: they can help us appreciate the world in a deeper way, or they can agitate us and disconnect us from our internal worlds. Imagine that the 5 senses are 5 horses. Each horse has individual reigns but they are all connected to a chariot. The charioteer is the mind. If the horses take over and the charioteer loses control, the horses will take the charioteer wherever they want to go. This is what happens to many of us, most of the time: we live as slaves to our senses. The senses can bring us momentary pleasure, which is great, but they do not lead us to our internal peace. On the contrary, if we allow them to rule our lives, we end up suffering, grabbing every pleasureful experience we can find, believing that will bring us peace (a new home, a partner, a chocolate cookie, one more drink, the latest iPhone, etc).

Here Patanjali suggests we use the senses as our object of meditation. This can be done is many ways. In all of the following examples, the mind is in charge and uses the senses to bring enjoyment to life – but with awareness. Below are some examples, pick ONE and practice that daily for the next week:

1. If your senses continuously draw you towards shopping, eating, drinking or watching TV, before you automatically engage in that activity, pause. Close the eyes and notice what is happening inside. Meditate, become aware of the sensations occurring just before the action takes place.

2. Choose an object of sensual pleasure to focus on. This can be anything from watching a sunset, eating cold watermelon, making love, listening to your favorite song, or petting your dog. Commit to being aware, to noticing every single sensation while you perform that act – be present. Did your experience change by just committing to being aware?

3. Sit in silence with the eyes closed. Begin to connect with your breath, in and out through the nose. Once you have found a calming rhythm, notice the cool air coming into your nostrils with each inhale and feel the cool air coming our of your nostrils with every exhale. Start with 2 minutes and gradually build up a daily practice of 10 minutes.

IN THE YOGA WORLD     Yoga has received a lot of criticism lately for having been undervalued, where only the asana-s (yoga poses) are taught and none of the other tools or the philosophy gets transmitted to students. In my opinion, this is true. However, the concentration that is required to commit to an asana practice and evolve in it also has its value. As a student, we want immediate results. Asana can provide us with those by either removing physical discomfort, boosting the self-esteem when we achieve a pose we were not able to do before, or by simply making us feel better at the end of a practice. With awareness, the physical body can be the object of meditation for person during an asana practice. Being in tune with a specific part of the body in different poses helps the mind focus and remain calm and steady.

Vyasa, an important commentator on the Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali, mentions that focusing on certain physical points for a long period of time and with consistency leads to extraordinary sensory capacities:

  • tip of the nose – supersensory smell
  • tip of the tongue – supersensory taste
  • palate – supersensory sight
  • middle of the tongue – supersensory touch
  • root of the tongue – supersensory hearing

The main point here is to find an object that we can commit to regularly. The concentration on that object will evolve, bringing the mind from  state of agitation and suffering to one of calmness and steadiness. What will you commit? If in doubt, find a teacher who can guide you.

INSPIRATIONAL PERSON     Elena, my dear and lovely cousin is the amazing person that comes to mind this Sutra I.35 - Elenaweek. Like most of us, her life has been a movement of ups and downs, of easy and super hard times. I grew up with her and she was definitely a child who was lead by her senses (like most children). But seeing her now, decades later, it is beautiful to see how she has come to find more calmness, confidence and peace in her life. Like Desikachar says, we know Yoga is working for you if your relationships are getting better. I see Elena surrounded by amazing people and cultivating rich friendships: her Yoga is working! She is now bringing a little girl into the world – one who is lucky to have her as this wise, ever-growing woman who wants the best for those around her. Thank you Ele for the friendship we’ve been cultivating in the recent past: it adds lot’s of joy to my life! Love you prima!

10 thoughts on “Sutra I.35 – Chapter I, Sutra 35

  1. As this sutra describes, never let your emotions control the mind. Prior to high school I was completely caught up in my emotions and was being strangled by them. It was an extremely ruff time, but it passed as I matured. Today I control my emotions so well, enough to the point where I am no longer ticklish because I told my body that was a trait I wished to rid!”

  2. That Elena cousin of yours is cute and so radiant. Just by looking at her smile, i feel peace and happy (not that i am choosing her to meditate🙂 ewwww). I think choosing an object or an image that i could connect or feel at peace/comfort with, that will definitely help sooth and steady the mind. An example to mind is a clean yellow fuzzy tennis ball that is harmlessly rotating in the air. If i keep my eyes closely on it and could magically focus the slow motion, maybe i could see the seams on the ball rotating themselves.

  3. Pingback: Sutra II.11 – Chapter II, Sutra 11 | weeklysutra

  4. I love this option! I frequently live “in my head”, and while I pay lip service to paying attention to my senses, in practice it is very difficult to be 100% present. I try to remind myself – there is no harm done in noticing, really paying attention – to my surroundings, to the smell of the air, to the sensation of something I touch – or even just listening to music. How often are we actually present to the wonderful transformation that happens inside ourselves when we hear song? The practice of yoga helps me significantly in this way.

  5. It can all start with a single change. One step in the right direction can lead to the next and the next and the next. I will take this sutra as my personal challenge to engage my five senses as I go about my average ordinary day. I know how much more alive and connected to the source I feel when I am engaged and fully present on my yoga mat. Now the real challenge…to be fully present off the mat and see what unfolds.

  6. A sensory practice…I have not paid much attention to this but will give this a go this week. I am loving all these tools for the journey. Everyone’s path is so different and as a teacher it will be important to not only teach from a place of experience but also from a place of knowledge of all these tools.

  7. I love that the “pause” is connected in the sutra also. Taking time to pause before I act or react to something or someone is a new idea for me. This is going to be a challenge, I usually act before I think

  8. It’s easy to get swept up in everything our senses are telling us about what is going on around us. My object of focus these days is my infant. Focusing on him definitely brings me more clarity and awareness about what is important- him🙂 Babies have a way of making you slow down and really notice everything about them- how they look, the faces they makes, their little noises. I need to take this focus and apply it to other areas of my life as well.

  9. I have been sitting in silence and practicing my pranayama. I am up to 10 minutes and have found having the same smells around add to my calm. Between the both and focusing on the pause, I am feeling the benefits, and have shared these tools with my patients. It’s so important for the body and the mind.

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