April 9, 2012

Knowing What Needs to be Severed. ~ Camella Nair

Photo: Ian Stannard

A Taste of the Yoga Sutras, Lesson Ten.

As part of her work connecting yoga and food, Camella Nair has created a 12 week course that pairs Patanjali’s yoga sutras with the everyday life activity of feeding the body. In this series for elephant journal, Camella provides readers with a short version of what she addresses more deeply in her course

Te pratiprasava-heyah suksah

When these obstacles have become weak, they are to be severed.

Photo: Zest-pk

When grapes have ripened on the vine, they are easily harvested as they offer no resistance to being picked.  Tugging at them before they are ripe is of no use. They are simply not ready yet and will hold firm. Nature provides a super ‘release me when I am ripe mechanism whereby the path of least resistance when the time is right, yields the sweetest results.

Think about how we experience an energy drain after an argument or exhaustion after running for a bus, or collapse after a long day at work. Energy has been expended and then, in the moment of stillness, there is a lack of resistance.  It is then the right time to make sure that another emotional explosion does not take place.

In other words. we have an opportunity to mature by learning from our experiences, so that we don’t have to react in the same way ever again, and become better at planning our time and managing our energy.

In this sutra, Patanjali makes it clear that when the kleshas of forgetfulness, egoism, attraction, aversion and clinging to this body are weak, it is a good time to work on strengthening our resolve and to prepare for when we get another ‘swing at the bat.’ Positive visualization and affirmation can be great ways to avoid destructive reactive patterns as our ‘buttons’ are pushed by circumstances and other people.

Time between intimate relationships is a good idea to avoid repeating the same mistakes as before.  In the same way, time between meals can give us an opportunity to digest what we have taken in, and also to think about what we will have for the next healthy meal, rather than continually grazing absent-mindedly on junk food.

For this lesson in my online course, Cooking the Yoga Sutras, I use the metaphor of grapes that have been ‘drained of the waters of life’. Grapes turn into raisins, and, as they are so versatile, we have lots of opportunities to think about our spiritual growth as we use them in our diet (we cook baked apples on the course).

As we learned in lesson two, the very practice of Kriya Yoga attenuates the kleshas (obstacles) and promotes Samadhi.  Self-discipline and self-study, along with attuning to something greater than ourselves constitutes Kriya Yoga.

Our everyday life experiences. and our ability to learn something positive from them, is making spiritual progress if we vow never to be the bringer of negative karma to ourselves and others.

This process does not usually happen overnight. We take a few steps forward, a few back, and end up dancing back and forth on the path we create for ourselves on the way to enlightenment.

If, when our ‘buttons’ are pushed, the usual reactions are not triggered, we can ‘feel’ on an emotional and intellectual level that we are in fact making progress. When we know that, it changes our perspective on life. It is not just about what we want and don’t want. We have learned to put other people’s needs and concerns into consideration.

I do not think that progress can be made if we think we are the top of the totem pole of existence. Why would we want to change? An inner relationship to something that does not have a form, or perhaps even a name, is necessary. This relationship can be difficult for our human minds to understand, so we need a symbol that expands our consciousness so that we can remember our connection to ‘the Divine.’

The symbol may be Jesus, Mary, Buddha, Krishna, or Ganesha. It is your mind and your universe and so it has to be a meaningful symbol for you—not your family group or cultural group symbol, but one that you can attune to.

We need to look deeply within our soul to sever our habitual inharmonious traits and create some tapas, or heat, as when the grape shrivels into a raisin.

When we cook a pie or baked apples, the greatest heat is at the center of the apple or pie. The center of the body is often regarded as the heart. In Ayurveda, it is the heart that is the root of the ‘mindstuff’, and so, if we can soften the heart, we can open up to new thoughts that actually help us break free from the negative patterns we all have that need to be severed.

Tapas can be engaged in conscious asana or meditation practice, or in our everyday lives, by containing destructive thought patterns we have, and not letting them scatter out into the world.  It takes us full circle again to utilizing and redirecting our energy to helping others (karma yoga).

Hiding away from the world may seem like a wonderful idea to become enlightened, but it is the opportunity that we have as householders, functioning with awareness and proper action, that can help us advance rapidly on the spiritual path. Close observation and reflection on the events of our lives can help us identify areas that need additional self-discipline, and what we need to sever.

The householder path is not an easy one. Meditation is one way to cope with the many challenges that it brings, and this is what we will be looking at in next week’s lesson.


Camella Nair is an ordained Swami in the Kriya Yoga tradition and has been practicing yoga since she was 17. She has written two books on yoga as well as an online course on the yoga sutras which is part philosophy and part cooking (http://www.cookingtheyogasutras.com/). She lives with her two teenage sons in Northern California. She can be reached via email at [email protected].


Editor: Lorin Arnold

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