I was reading a commentary of the Yoga Sutras recently and came across a translation of one line that related to both a fundamental intention of yoga and the result of our practice; Subjective Serenity.
One of the great misconceptions of yoga is that as we practice the mind will stop and with it the emotions and reactions that are an everyday part of our human life. My experience is that the Serenity that is the subject of this line goes far deeper than our mental modifications (thoughts) and their physiological counterpart (emotions). The process of yoga is like diving into the ocean. We pass through the waves at the surface like thoughts and emotions, then we pass through deeper currents that are like subconscious tendencies that move us in behavioral patterns of which we may not be aware and finally we arrive at a profound stillness that has no end. This is the serenity of yoga.
Everybody has this depth and everybody has the waves and currents of mind and emotion. The ocean may be rough or calm at different times of day and in different seasons but the stillness at its depth is always present. Similarly, your depth of stillness is always accessible and so too will the modifications of mind and emotions be present and dependent on the passage of time. The stillness and serenity at your depth is timeless. To choose to experience this serenity through discipline and practice is the "subjective" part of the equation. Every moment during the day we have the choice to be jostled in the waves of the mind, to be unconsciously moved towards addictive behaviors or to choose to be in our depth, our stillness, our serenity. That is your choice and one that is yours to make moment to moment.
On the yoga mat, we practice subjective serenity in the face of physical exertion as we lengthen and strengthen the body. In our conscious relating to others we can practice subjective serenity as we observe our own reactions and take responsibility for all of them as we choose subjective serenity. This is a powerful and life-altering practice that leads us to eliminate our tendency to blame another for what we are feeling or experiencing.
Tonight at the Boathouse we will practice Subjective Serenity, we will choose peace even as we bear witness to muscles burning.
Dive in to your depth often, it is the greatest gift you could give to yourself and those you love.