The Eight Fold Path
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are a manual for how to move towards an enlightened life. Included in this ancient text is an eight-part system for how to experience and live life with less suffering.
Yoga’s eight component parts are self control for social harmony,
precepts for personal discipline,
regulation of prana,
withdrawal of senses from their objects,
contemplation of our true nature,
meditation on the true self,
and being absorbed in Spirit
What is amazing about this approach is the acknowledgement that there is an order to how one can go about finding peace. Unlike some other systems, there is a direct appreciation for our lived experience as human beings working with bodies, breath, and minds. It is really useful to think about this order when we have dis-ease, especially in the mind. For example, it is very possible that any of us could be having a difficult time finding mental peace if we haven’t found a movement practice that suits us. To my thinking, if someone is suffering from anxiety it would be a shame not to recommend some movement and breathwork before trying to work directly with the mind. This is one of the ideas Patanjali is trying to share with us. If we simply try to “go for it” therapeutically, it may not yield the results we are looking for. This is because there are foundational steps (like moving the body) that may need to be taken before the deeper work of focusing the mind can take place.
By following Patanjali’s advice we naturally move toward a relationship with disease that requires the client’s full participation. Instead of being told what to do – the client now engages in a process where the results of any practice they’re doing are looked at. If symptoms aren’t being reduced, the therapist suggests another approach or practice that might help. Asana leads to pranayama which leads to concentration, and so on. If we need to go to a different step on the
‘ladder” to achieve successful results or less suffering, we do so with no attachment to our original ideas. This open-mindedness creates a framework where healing and spiritual evolution are united. Who wouldn’t want that?
May we all move closer to ourselves today and always,