“The essence of yoga and all the faiths and traditions is to be easeful in body, peaceful in mind, and useful in life. The aim of yoga is to make the body healthy and the mind tranquil and pure. With a pure mind and a healthy body, you become a useful instrument for God.”
Swami Satchidanananda, – The Golden Presence
by Rosemerry Trommer
If you are lucky in this life,
you will find hearts everywhere you go—
hiding in full sun in the leaves of the hollyhocks,
or tucked into brambles, or rising up
when you hold your hand out to a friend.
And if you are lucky,
your heart will break, not just tiny cracks,
but huge fractures, wide enough
for a hippopotamus to swim through,
high enough for a hawk to circle inside.
Then, the heart can no longer believe
it is separate, beating only for itself.
Only after it is broken can it find in itself every form—
from the silver herring to the great blue heron
to the red hibiscus to the hermit crab.
In Asia they bring loved ones pink hydrangeas
to say, “You are the beat of my heart.”
If you are lucky, you offer hydrangeas
to every creature you see—the hummingbird,
the rattlesnake, the man across the street.
A horseshoe is lucky if you hang it
open side up, but not as lucky as an open heart
which is always ready for love. And if it is
too difficult to ask the world to break you,
then just wait, and whisper frequently, “Thank you, thank you.”
Equanimity: Stillness in Motion
Equanimity is a near perfect word to describe the state of being that we call Yoga. The Bhagavad Gita defines Yoga this way in Chapter Two , Verse 48: “Equanimity of mind is Yoga.” Equanimity is also a beneficial translation of the word upekshanam that is used by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Upekshanam is often translated as disregard for the wicked, but equanimity better represents the inner attitude it is suggested we cultivate, and the ability to maintain balance when encountering hurtful behavior.
Sri Swami Satchidananda often used equanimity to describe the unflappable state of mind that Yoga practice makes possible. Sri Swamiji loved to use the compelling example of a surfer to illustrate how we can develop an internal steadiness to such an extent that we would invite bigger and bigger waves, or challenges in life, and take joy in meeting them head on.
Our culture seems to emphasize the very opposite thing by promoting in so many ways the idea of pushing ourselves to the limit. The media are constantly highlighting the extreme events and behavior, the richest people, the gold medal winners and the top performers. The recent advent of extreme sports, The Guinness Book of World Records, the Fortune 500 and even the Nike slogan, “Just do it”, are more examples of this prevalent message.
A much more natural and instinctual tendency is to find balance. Everything in nature seeks balance as part of a strategy to survive. Our bodies are constantly responding to all the conditions we are exposed to in an effort to maintain homeostasis.
To pursue our spiritual growth, we need a very refined state of mental balance that is achieved by a combination of regular meditative practice to create equanimity, and by reflecting on the beliefs and expectations that cause our minds to lose that balance.
We might ask ourselves, “What compels me to push myself beyond a healthy limit, to go sleep deprived, to strain or overdo?” If we look deeply, we can begin to discern where our attachment to an outcome prevents us from pursuing our goals with neutrality and poise. Asana practice can be a good opportunity to let go of needing to prove anything or live up to some standard, really listen to the sensations in the body, and respond to them to maintain a balance between effort and ease.
Anything we do can be an opportunity to choose equanimity, to consider the well-being of everyone and the planet we live on, including ourselves and the health of our bodies and minds. That becomes much easier when we develop a regular meditative practice that calms the mind and cultivates a non-reactive awareness and an open heart. Then all our efforts can be grounded in this inner steadiness and ultimately a sense that all we do is in service of the Divine.