This morning, I finished reading the book "Yoga Mind: 30 Days to Enhance Your Practice and Revolutionize Your Life from the Inside Out" by Susan Colon (2018, Schriber). I read the book in far less than 30 days – it was more like three days. But that's because I chose not to pause to complete the various practices and journaling that were described in the book. I just read the book through, pausing to mark the many passages that spoke to me.
There’s a riveting storyline that runs through this book, woven throughout the yoga philosophy and information. I wanted to keep reading, in part to follow that storyline and see how it concluded. Now that I have, I would like to reread the book, and follow the program as suggested. But meanwhile, let me share with you some of my favorite passages. If any of Susan's words speak to you, I highly recommend that you purchase and read this book!
In order to understand the tools of yoga and begin to see how useful they can be, it helps to have some background information. Yoga, like Buddhism, is not a religion. It can be compared in a general sense to philosophy or spirituality in that people of any religion can, and do, make use of yoga’s secular tools. Both yoga and Buddhism were born thousands of years ago in India, where the Sanskrit word yoga means “union” – union with something greater than ourselves, union of body and mind through breathing, union that comes when we release the false idea of aloneness that creates harmful feelings and habits and come to understand that we are all connected. (p. 7)
The spiritual practice of yoga helps us to shine brightly by helping us see the divine light already within us. With a yoga body, you can do impressive poses; with a Yoga Mind, you can do anything. (p. 11)
Whether you have a daily physical practice of some kind, you intend to exercise but usually don’t, or your physical movement is limited, there is a form of yoga for you. The key is remembering that any movement done mindfully can be thought of as yoga – the union of mind, body, and breath. By bringing focus to your movements, even movements that are visualized, you can create you own asana practice, no matter your age, fitness level, or physical condition. (p. 89)
Achieving balance actually means learning how to fluctuate the way a surfer moves this way and that to stay on her board as the wave beneath her undulates, constantly changing as it moves forward – just like life. The tools of yoga teach you how to find your own balance and stay on your spiritual surfboard, no matter what. (p. 119)
For me, this was one of the keystone teachings of yoga: not everything in life is going to be okay, but you can be okay. Even as the storm swirls around you, you can be calm at the center of it. It is possible to want everything in your life to be different – if your body is ill, if there’s something wrong with work or a relationship, or if any of the many things we know can rock us to the core happens – and still find the natural peace within you. Knowing that you have that center within you, that perfect and brightly burning divine light that cannot be extinguished by any of life’s winds, is santosha. (p. 145)
"The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali," one of the key philosophical texts of yoga, is composed of a series of pithy bits of wisdom known as sutras. The sutras describe experiences, ideas, and goals that help form a path to our best selves.
Although the text is nearly two thousand years old, the advice is eternally relevant. There are 196 sutras, but one is cited more than any of the others: Sutra 1.14 , which reads, "Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break, and in all earnestness."
In other words, never give up. (pp. 151-152)
Meditation is not about clearing the mind, but about returning, time after nonjudgmental time, to gently concentrating on an object. There is a word for this focused flow of attention: dhayana.
A stream may course over stones and around twists and bends, but that doesn’t interrupt its flow. Thoughts are like the stones and twists; the stream of concentration is dhayana. It may be interrupted, but like that stream, it returns to its course. The only time it can be stopped is if it gets dammed up, like when we get caught up in thoughts that distract us from what we are focusing on. (p. 186)
Dharma means “the path.” Dharma can be the path of the Buddha’s teachings, it can be the path of yoga, and it’s also thought of as the path of cosmic order – the grand scheme of things. It can be a river of teachings or a river of life flowing as it should for reasons we can sometimes see the sense of and other times may never comprehend.
Within the larger path of dharma is svadharma, you own unique path. Svadharma is a calling. Its song is a message formed by your talents and skills, as well as where you are in your life. With svadharma, adversity doesn’t block what you can achieve; it can be one of the ingredients that bring your achievements to life. (p. 249)
Just as svadharma is your own unique path, sraddha is your own personal faith. You can believe in a specific religion, yet your faith is still your own, because you’re the one exercising it. The way it flows through you, and the way you act on it, is yours. You can have a strong faith in a spiritual path of your own definition. Even those who say they don’t believe in anything believe in that. (p. 258)
Life is an ocean of time, and the events we go through are its waves. Some of these waves will be smooth and calm. Others will be rock ‘n’ roll, and still others will cause you to wipe out.
Don’t be afraid. Just climb back on, spiritual surfer. (p. 263)