1.13 The Practice of Practice
Updated: Jul 30, 2021
YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 13 | COMMENTARY
Tatr stitho yatno-abhyasah.
तत्र स्थितौ यत्नोऽभयासः ॥१.१३॥
Tatra sthithau yatno’bhya̅saḥ. ||1.13||
Being constant and dedicated in one’s efforts is Abhyasa.
Abhyasa is explained first out of the two tools given by Maharishi Patanjali. Abhyasa does not simply means Practice – it means to be established in practice. You may wish to learn to play the guitar – you are not going to become a good guitarist with a musical year if you practice it regularly for a few months, or practice irregularly for a lifetime. Excellence demands regular effort, practice without excuses which is Abhyasa. The practice becomes as much a part of you as breathing, eating or sleeping. Then the Abhyasa can bear fruit as it percolates into the depths of the consciousness.
“How do you expect great things to happen if you are not willing to give your everything to what you wish to do in life.” - SADHGURU
In the context of the previous sutras, we are talking about the practice of subduing the mind – that is keeping it under control. Have you ever dissolved into some activity? It may be something at work, studying, playing an instrument, playing a sport or reading a book? If I ask you to describe your environment at that time, you will draw a blank. You weren’t even aware of your body, your consciousness, and most amazing of all Time. Personally, it has happened with me many times that I have sat down with a book after lunch and been surprised to find the sun setting when I came about. It takes a few minutes to gather the environment. In those hours, there were no modulations in the mind. The mind can be hence transcended – it needs effort. It is a noble aim, unattainable for most, but like all things in life, it can be achieved with Abhyasa.
We have been told again and again multiple times since our childhood that the mind is a mischievous fellow – it cannot be brought under control. We say things like “Oh, I just could not control the urge” or “I went wandering with my thoughts” or “My mind simply refuses to do it”. We have given up the responsibility of the mind. We have such a powerful tool that is not bound by the constraints of space and time and we have given up on it. It is the mind which created the airplanes and pocket computers and poetry that can induce unimaginable emotions. How can we give up on our gift? We all have accepted that the state of the mind is its own doing and not ours. Where is the mind? Isn’t the mind a part of you? Aren’t my thoughts different from yours and everybody else’s? Just like we take responsibility for the health of our body, we need to accept responsibility for the health of our mind too. We know which food is not palatable for our bodies and we take care not to consume them, similarly there are so many habits that we know make our head hurt, make us think about irrelevant stuff that do not concern us at all – we need to remove them from our life. Instead, we can include some meditation, walking, and painting in our routine.
You are aware of the thoughts that bother us and do not need any attention. Practice letting them go. There are people that drain you – practice distancing those that do not bring anything positivity in your life. It sounds difficult – it is difficult, but it is so because we did not know it can be done and hence have maybe never tried it. Every time you find yourself thinking unnecessarily, practice coming out of the mind. Dissolve into the practice, again and again, until it becomes your very nature. Take charge of your mind and subdue the vrittis that are unnecessary by Abhyasa.
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