Overcoming our obstacles

In the Yoga Sutras of Patajanli we are told of the five afflications or obstacles in our lives that cause us pain and suffering. These Kleshas are Asmita, Raga, Dvesha, Abihinivesah and Avidya.  The first stage in working with the kleshas is to simply acknowledge that they exist in some form or other in our lives.  To understand that our lives are affected by our ego, our likes, our dislikes, our fear of loss and these combine together to form our misconception, misunderstanding of when is happening in and around us.Having acknowledged their existence we can the reflect. Reflection promotes self-awareness, self-understanding and self-knowledge which enables us to uncover and see the kleshas, the obstacles and their roots as well as how they create our suffering.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali explains that these obstacles can be gross or subtle and that the gross obstacles are overcome through the practise of Kriya Yoga.  Kriya Yoga comprises of tapas (self-discipline), svadhyaya (self-study) and ishvara pranidhana (surrender).

Tapas is derived from the word “tap” meaning to burn, shine, blaze, suffer pain. It means that we need a burning effort in all circumstances to be able to achieve.  Tapas is about discipline and will power.  It is the discipline to make time to practise yoga, to make choices that truly nourish your well-being, to keep training for a race or to make changes to your diet to ensure that you stay healthy or to ensure that you take time to be still and quiet to benefit your mental health. It needs discipline to keep going even though it might not be easy.  There are many reasons to have self-discipline and it can be incredibly challenging but it is through this constant repeated discipline that our behaviour and our habits change.  However we have to be careful that our self-discipline isn’t self-torture by ensuring that the motivation for the discipline comes from a positive place rather than a negative one. For example entering a race can be something you do to because your ego wants you to do it or you feel that you have to prove something to yourself – negative reasons or others or it can be for health and well-being or to raise money to help others – more positive reasons.

The second stage is self study, svadhyaya.  This represents our searching for meaning. It is the education of ourselves achieved mainly through the careful observation of ourselves on a day to day basis.  In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali explained that this was done through the study of the writings of your own religion or the religion of others or all religions to discover what is true in life.  It requires that we stufy our own lives and internal states of consciousness, to learn to trust our intuition and conscience so that we act properly and true to ourselves and others. Any activity that beings about a self-relfective consicouness can be considered svadyaya – meditation ,yoga, running, painting.  As long as there is an intention to know yourself better through the study.  On our yoga mats this can be achieved through observing the body and the mind as your work through your practise, noticing how things feel.  Away from your yoga mats it is constantly observing what your are doing and what you are learning.

The final stage is ishvara pranidhana, surrender, surrender to a higher consciousness, recognising the source of life within and around you.  This higher purpose or power may be a dedication to God, working for peace on earth, keeping the planet “green”. It is anything in which your surrender your ego-driven activities to a divine spirit and in doing so doorways open for positive energy to flow into all aspects of your life.  It is surrounding our will power so that we can fulfil our destiny, understanding that there are forces at work greater than ourselves that are guiding and supporting us on our path of life.  Life is not inherently meaningful, we make meaning happen through the attention and care that we express through our actions and our deeds.  Ishvara Pranidhana is dedicating the fruits of our actions to God or humanity, God in manifestation.  It is giving everything to this higher power and being open to receive it back many times magnified.  Patanjali encouraged us to be like the mother who received the soul, nourishes it for nine months and then lets it come out into the world.  It she were to always keep the baby inside her womb she would be pained.  Dedication is true Yoga.  Dedicate your lives for the sake of humanity. With every breath, every moment repeat the mantram “dedication, dedication, giving, giving, loving, loving”.  This is the best Yoga which will bring peace and joy to all and keep the mind free from disturbances, the chitta vrittas.