Taylor Swift, I got what you need, girl. Don’t even sweat it.

Tswift. Girl. You need to pick up a copy of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, stat. And maybe do some yoga.

You see, he had it all figured out: why we should be practicing yoga as a holistic and comprehensive approach to life, what are the five categories that all pain can be filed under, where pain comes from and why we experience it, AND (here’s the best part) he details how to avoid pain in the future. That would mean no more breakup songs for you, Taylor. fin. And wouldn’t that be nice?

The first few slokas of Chapter Two in the Sutras deal with what is yoga and why we should practice it. Yoga is most commonly defined as “union”; the union between the individual soul and the universal soul or consciousness. too much hippie jargon? Yoga is the union of two things that have been separated. The practice of yoga involves self-study, training and purifying the senses, and releasing into the creative consciousness. I know this is a lot to take in Taylor, so we will leave that introduction as it is. Let’s get to the good stuff.
Patanjali says that by practicing yoga, we can reach ultimate enlightenment and become free from the afflictions which obstruct the mind from attaining steadiness. Here’s where knowledge is dropped, so start taking notes, Tay.
There are five causes of pain (kleshas):

1. Ignorance about the true nature of things
2. I-ness, egoism, feeling of individuality (when really, we are all the same)
3. Attachment or addiction to pleasure
4. Aversion
5. Fear of death, the desire to cling to life

Only five root causes of all pain? Man, that’s not bad! Patanjali goes on to explain that these causes of pain can occur within four stages:

1. Dormant (you wouldn’t even know they were there)
2. Mild
3. Showing signs in an oscillating state (sometimes you feel the pain, sometimes you don’t)
4. Active and producing thoughts or actions to various degrees (…the stage that is responsible for the world hearing about your breakups on the radio)

Ignorance is called out as the root pain that for all the other kinds of pain we experience. If we uproot our ignorance of the true nature of things, we are getting somewhere. Uprooting however, has to start at the top of the tree, with fear of death, and work it’s way down to ignorance.

Lets talk about ignorance for a hot second. Ignorance is of four types:

1. Mistaking that which is transient as eternal
2. Mistaking that which is impure for pure
3. Mistaking that which is sadness for happiness
4. Mistaking non-self for self

When living in Northern Virginia a few years ago, I would fight ignorance all the time. Literally, fight. Not like a superhero or anything…more like come up against it. The drinking scene, for instance, with which I have finally made peace with. Drinking and everything that bugged me about the people I found at bars was all rooted in the 3rd kind of ignorance: mistaking sadness for happiness. Let that sink in.
Ignorance is a kind of psychosis. It causes duality, a divine illusion. I know firsthand, Taylor, and I’m going to school you break up songs.
There is one situation in my life that has illustrated all four forms of ignorance in a seemingly never ending cycle. You’ll get down with this, Taylor. It was a guy who I dated for some time, someone I knew intimately. Our relationship was volatile and right out of one of your songs, Tswift. The relationship had good moments which developed into raga, one of the five causes of pain. That is, there started a liking that accompanied the experience of pleasure (raga). True to Patanjali’s sloka, the association of the memory of an object and the pleasure experienced began to form. and when there is an object of pleasure, the mind will run after it, wishing to experience it again and again. I couldn’t stay away. My mind wanted to be with him all the time, to experience pleasure all the time.
Then the next sutra set in: dwesha. Dwesha is the repulsion that accompanies pain; it’s the aversion that follows suffering or sadness. These moments came when long nights of drinking ended in fighting, or after finding out about times in our relationship when he was with another girl.
We would fight, break up, then make up. Repeat x forever. Lots of couples do this, regardless of how painful it is (read: abusive mentally or even physically). Even MORE songs are written about the addition than breaking up. You know, where someone is someone else’s drug and you’ve got withdrawal, and rehab, and falling off the bandwagon and jumping back on. That’s how it was. why? Many times, we both heard “stay away from each other”, “they are trouble”, and “why do you keep doing this?”
Here’s why, here is the ultimate answer: pleasure and pain are two sides to the same coin. Your mind seeks out to relive these moments of pleasure, forever bonded to innumerable people or things that will cause pain. They bind us to lower levels of consciousness; as long as they are there, the mind cannot be free.

Osho said in his book on meditation that only one step is needed to free the mind, to see clearly. “But we go in a circle and the one step is always missed…the one step that can bring you to the center.” Every morning, I take one step onto my yoga mat and I feel closer to the center.

Hope this helps, Tswift. Oh, and Taylor…you hit the nail right on the head with that catchy little tune “We are never ever getting back together“.
Video: We are never ever getting back together


A little sutra

As part of my yoga philosophy class, we are studying Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, an ancient text that describes how to achieve samadhi, or enlightenment via yoga, ethical living, and the control of the mind. It’s all very interesting and has all the fixings of the universe and it’s silliness. It’s a dictionary, DYI, and self help book all in one and at $8 retail, it’s a significantly cheaper alternative to therapy.

I suppose simply stating that studying this text has helped me immensely in a weeks time is a gross understatement. In fact, creating another section of this blog to detail the transformation would be a much better representation of the impact it’s had on me. So, look for that. One particular sutra from today that has helped relieve some recent sources of tension for me described how the mind perceives information. When the mind observes an object, it observes three main things: the object, it’s meaning, and our knowledge of the object. For example, I throw on my headphones and hit play. The mind processes a song is playing. If the mind is not sound, that is, practicing non-attachment in relation to the sensory organs, then the mind will process that there is a song. It will then spiral out to the meaning of the song, that is processing the notes being played or hearing the lyrics. The mind further processes our personal knowledge or experience of the song, whether it is attached to a certain memory or person, painful or not. By this point, the mind is already being carried away with its thoughts.
A song is just a song; by observing it with non-attachment, the song is separated from its meaning and our knowledge of it. This allows a renewed enjoyment of the song upon each listen, as it is not attached to other non-reality based characteristics. It also frees the mind. So that song you can’t listen to because it reminds you of an ex and its sooooo painful? Practice non-attachment. Instant and lifelong relief.