“Every day a yogi performs the dance of discrimination between the choices that darken and pinch the heart and those that free the heart to sing and serve.”
On my return to Buenos Aires, I also taught a Raja Yoga class—the study of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali— to the teacher training group there. The Sutras methodically present the science of Yoga and how its practice transforms the human experience from one of suffering to one of joy.
On this occasion, we focused on the first sutra of the second chapter that describes what Patanjali calls Kriya Yoga. Kriya Yoga offers three practices that form a fundamental approach to life and aid a sincere student in making use of all of life’s experiences to learn and grow.
The first element is the acceptance of difficult and painful experiences, including the healthy forms of self-discipline we undertake to train our minds. By willingly accepting these situations, our limitations are exposed and we can begin to see where our expectations and desires have given birth to unnecessary suffering.
This examination of painful experiences is made possible by the second element of Kriya Yoga—the study of scripture. This implies that we use sources of trusted wisdom to study our lives and understand the roots of our misery. The third aspect of this practice is surrender to the Divine. This is similar to the teaching of the Gita that requires a willingness to give up selfish thinking and serve God by serving our fellow beings.
I never tire of reviewing these sublime teachings. I feel they are gradually replacing the old ways of thinking in my subconscious mind and allowing me to free myself from unhealthy relationships with both people and goals. When I can remember to keep my heart centered in these spiritual values, I feel at peace and can enjoy my service without depending on rewards. That’s what Yoga is meant to do – teach us how to be happy.
When I returned to Buenos Aries, I gave a series of workshops on a wide variety of topics at the Integral Yoga Institute there. The first program explored the practical wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita, and how these ancient teachings can guide everyday decisions. The Gita does encourage regular meditation practice to master the mind, but it also offers other approaches that can be more suitable for aspirants who are busy with families, homes and careers.
We discussed how our normal duties and work activities can be transformed into spiritual practices by doing them with a caring heart and focused mind, free from attachment to the outcome. When our intention is concerned with the well-being of others, not only our own, our actions are performed in harmony with our essential spiritual nature. This is Yoga in action.
Our actions also become Yoga when they are done with love and devotion, as when we offer them to God in whatever form we understand that Divine Presence. Imagine seeing yourself as an instrument of the Divine—your behavior and speech as expressions of God’s Will. This means we willingly let go of personal desires to allow this higher will to guide us.
Whenever our minds are freed from the anxious need to sustain or enhance a self-image, there is a sense of great relief. Whenever we feel ourselves to be a part of something much bigger than our small-minded image, we are empowered to act with clarity, strength and peace in our hearts.
Karma yoga means acting with the well-being of others in our hearts, acting impeccably for the joy of doing without any expectation for a reward. Spiritual activism, the way we are thinking of it, is much the same, but the orientation is more specific. We are acting with the current condition of our whole world in our hearts: the condition of our mother earth, as well as all the beings that inhabit our planet.
And we are acting with the intention to be mindful of how our actions impact our planet and our collective consciousness. We are doing whatever we can to be aware of, and draw awareness to, the dire need for seeing clearly how our current culture is harming our world, and how each of us can change that step by step, word by word, thought by thought.