Patanjali's Yoga Sutras - More from Chapter 1
Time to dive back into the Sutras with more from Chapter 1 - 'The Contemplation Chapter'. If you haven't yet read our introduction and take-aways from 1-3 of Patanjali's text, then do read about them here.
Like we said last time, there have been many translations and interpretations of the Sutras over the years - and these are just our take on them! Do have a read of the text yourself if you're interested and let us know what you think.
Vrttisarupyam itaratra - "otherwise we identify with the activities of the mind""
This is leading on from Sutra 1.3 - where we reach, and rest in, the nature of our true selves - so it's kind of suggesting the counter to that. Where our attention and energy is drawn when we are drawn out of ourselves.
Itarata means the state we are normally in, overwhelmed by activities of the mind, the vrtti. We don't know about you, but this state is something that we can really identify with, especially in this day and age! It's so easy to become attached and get caught up in mind chatter, thoughts and feelings, when actually if we step back and realise we aren't defined by our experience - there is something more in us, separate from that - we might gain space, maybe even perspective, from it all.
It's a really good verse for when you are caught up in a rush of things, or feeling overwhelmed - take a few deep breaths, think about Vrttisarupyam itaratra and remember you aren't your thoughts and experience right now. There is so much more to you :)
vrttayah pancatayyah klista aklistah - "there are five activities of the mind, whether experienced positively or negatively"
This is a really beautiful reminder that our thoughts are intrinsically neutral and at different points in our lives, we receive them differently. When we are experiencing a state of particularly painful/uncomfortable thoughts, this can be handy to hold close and keep you steady if things are overwhelming you. It also helps us categorise our thoughts, so if you need to, you can divert your attention to some of the more neutral/positive categories.
It can be really difficult in the height of a racing mind, of course, but gently coaxing your attention to what is around you, what it makes you think of, even if that's nothing much at all, can be a great way to create space from the harder thoughts. Often we notice the painful ones more, because they hit our system in a more overwhelming manner. This means the positive thoughts are less obvious a lot of the time, because they tend to be more neutral and roll towards you clearly, passing like waves in the ocean.
A simple practice of noticing those less obvious thoughts, the neutral, everyday things, can really help build up our ability to differentiate between our inner goings on, and divert attention when necessary. Simply look around you, focus on or jot down what you notice and think, and how that is making you feel. Small steps like these often build to make huge differences.
Pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smrtayah - "the 5 mental activities are: correct knowledge, false knowledge, imagination, deep sleep, memory. klishta/aklishta - again, whether they produce suffering or not"
In this verse, it is suggested that everything that happens in the mind/emotional body is part of a combination of 5 vibrational activities. Noticing, differentiating and understanding these is, according to Patanjali, key to liberating ourselves from the gripping's of our thoughts and feelings. We've spoken a little bit above about how we do this, but the Sutras offer some helpful insights into categorisations that might aid you in your inner explorations!
While this whole thing can seem like a massive feat, it is a good reminder to slow everything down and start to think where your thoughts, and linked reactions, are coming from. Often our patterns of mind/emotion are so deeply entrenched they happen very quickly, and end up just breezing by with our impulsions without even a second to notice. If you find yourself getting particularly pressed by a thought or feeling, tracing it back to an area, or Patanjali's 5 areas of activity, can help you to move past it - whether or not it requires further investigation or simply you feel ready to let it go after doing the tracing, these understandings of our perceptions can really help us digest stuff.
More about how Patanjali has done this comes in the following sutras covered in the next blog post… For now, we'll leave you with that!