Being a yoga teacher and exemplifying yoga philosophy has been very difficult for me, but a little practice with dedication and patience has definitely helped. The other day, while teaching my students about tolerance and compassion, I caught myself feeling a bit hypocritical.The day before Ihad shared with my partner the disagreement I had had that morning with my boss. As thoughts of judgment and feelings of anger crept into my mind, surprisingly heated words came out of my mouth, as if a rattlesnake had suddenly appeared there. The more I spoke, the more worked up I felt. And then, I came to a halt –a shameful silence. Why had I gone out of control? Why hadn’t I used what I preach to remain sensible and practiced equanimity? Then, more anger and resentment arose ─ but now towards myself; I had allowed negativity get the better of me.
The next day, while reading my daily sutra in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (translated with commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda), I came across the perfect sutra in response to my questions: Book Three, Sutra 35: HŖDAYE CITTA SAMVIT, which is translated as: “By samyama on the heart, the knowledge of the mind-stuff is obtained.” This was a bit difficult to interpret and comprehend at first, but as I followed its instruction throughout the day and meditated on the heart, I began to understand its meaning.
As I have learned, our mind can be our best friend and our worst enemy, and it can take control of our thoughts and actions, leaving the heart out of the picture. It can also control how we feel, shut off our awareness trigger and stunt us. Sometimes it acts positively and advises us well; sometimes it goes into a dark place and gets us into trouble. So we cannot rely on our mind to guide us properly. Sometimes I even talk to my mind: “Oh, mind! Who is your master?” The answer comes back to me, “The heart!”
By focusing on our heart, we find the center of our Self – the true answer. Who we are and what we do depends on thepurity of our heart. Innately, we humans are filled with love, joy and compassion –not only towards others, but towards ourselves as well. Our primal instincts are towards good and the betterment of everyone and everything else. It all begins with most of us through the teachings of our mother’s selfless love; it’s our first lesson learned.
As we grow older, we begin to discriminate between rewards, and we seek the most fulfilling ones without thinking about the broader consequences of our desires. This is when our mind begins to develop and takes over our path, our selflessness tapers and our ego grows. We forget the lessons learned from our mother’s unconditional love, and instead, we act on base instincts for survival and success above all. So, instead of allowing our heart to answer our questions, we give in to our mind. “Don’t back down! Winning is everything! An eye for an eye!” Yet have these instructions ever really worked?
Let your heart guide you, ask it questions, have faith that it will take you to the truth. Open your heart –it must always remain open and ready to receive and give. It will awaken you and pardon your mistakes and guide you to not repeat them. If you allow it to, it will warm every cell of your being with love, and you will be ready to give it back. You will be able to transfer those feelings of love and compassion to your neighbor, to your loved ones, and even turn enemies into lovers.
You will then understand that everyone makes mistakes, and compassion and forgiveness are the cures to resentful feelings. Instead of lashing out with anger and judgment, you can pause and silently ask your heart for answers. Repeat to yourself, Om NamahShivayah! or, I honor the Shiva in me – the love and compassionate spirit that helps me make the best decision. Meditate on your heart and you will make sure your mind thinks straight!