You've heard it before. You might have seen (or used!) the hashtag #BeHereNow. Maybe you have a T-shirt with that phrase written on it. Finding moments of pure presence is something we all strive for, isn't it?
(And forgive me for a longer email today... I'm in teacher training mode. Our YTT starts in just two weeks, and I geek out on stuff like this!)
I'm going to let you in on a secret: "Being fully present" to a yogi isn't the end-goal. Rather, it's the means to living an enlightened life... every single day, every single moment. Let me explain.
One of the most important bodies of work in the yogic tradition is Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. (His name is pronounced Pah-TAHN-jah-lee.) The sanskrit word Sutra can be thought of similar to our English word suture, which the internet says means "an immovable junction." And instead of referring to something medically related (as we would in English), the Yoga Sutras are the stepping stones for how to walk the yogic path, and they build on one another. Each sutra cannot exist without the sutra before it.
So it stands to reason that the first of 196 Yoga Sutras is the most important one: Atha yoga anushasanam. It translates to: Now, yoga begins.
And here, when Patanjali says "yoga," he doesn't just mean striking a warrior 2 or a down dog. Yoga — as Patanjali intends it — refers to a way of life that is all yoga. In fact, in the entire Yoga Sutras, he only mentions asana (meaning poses that we practice on our mat) three times! Thus, yoga truly is a non-dogmatic way of life we can all walk within ourselves, for ourselves, as part of this great collective consciousness.
Before my recent trip to India, I understood this first sutra... but I don't think I truly felt the depth of its power. My teacher, Anand Mehrotra describes this powerful NOW in a podcast I was listening to this morning, and I wanted to include a snippet for you. Anand says:
"You see, it all begins now. This is the most powerful moment that exists in time. For that's the only time you will ever experience: This moment, here and now. So if there has to be a beginning, it can only be now. Just like the wake of the ship; when you look behind the ship, you see the wake. But realize that the cause of that wake does not lie in the past. The cause of that wake is the ship in the present moment. It is THIS moment that is the cause of the past and the future. It is not the past which is the cause of this moment. You have to realize that. That it all begins now."
And that nugget about the past not causing this moment is HUGE! Let's read that again,
"It is not the past which is the cause of this moment."
How is that possible? Our lens.
We each have a lens that we're viewing the world through. An ever-changing lens, that can morph when you have an epiphany, or come to an understanding. Your entire worldview shifts. We even have a lens when we're clouded in a state of emotion, rather than a state of stillness.
Let's look at an example: Imagine people who were once proponents of smoking cigarettes. Today, we know this is wrong on many levels, and smoking is a direct cause of many aspects of dis-ease. But years ago, for many, smoking was the "now."
After we started understanding smoking was bad for our health, our lens changed. What once was right was now wrong. The fact of cigarette smoking happening didn't change... the idea ABOUT cigarettes changed. Thus, we can change our lens and thus, our view of past in the blink of an eye.
Or, for some, that lens is still in the process of changing over the course of many years, battling addiction, understanding, disease, and so on. For others, knowledge of the facts of smoking hasn't changed the lens at all; the smoking goes on.
Knowing that the past does not cause your now (remember the wake of the ship!), is it possible to — in the here and now — shift your lens and view moments in your life through a different lens? Even if your answer is no, I would encourage you to think instead: Not yet. And know that everything — even our shifting worldview — is happening in perfect time. Be gentle with yourself... and enjoy NOW!
Originally hailing from Wisconsin, Mollie is a cheesehead transplant to Northwest Montana, with degrees in Retail and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Today, she lives off the grid, half the year in a Tiny House & half the year in a yurt — both of which she and her husband, Sean, built by hand. Nonprofit Executive Director by day, Mollie also owns and teaches at Yoga Hive — a chain of community yoga studios in the valley.