We start in different places, we take different paths, we have different methods — can we all end up at yoga?
Sutra 4.1: Powers or skills are gained by being born with them, by using drugs, by incantations, through various kinds of practices, or by becoming enlightened. Translation by Kofi Busia
Sutra 4.1: The attainments listed in the previous section are not only the fruits of the threefold inner discipline, but they are congenital in some, and in others they may follow the right and intelligence use of certain medicinal herbs or of certain mantras (mystic formulae or advice), or they may follow the kindling of the psychic fire. Translation by Swami Venkatesananda
When I was in college, I was easily surprised, and most often not by the books or the lectures, but by the unusual things spilling from the mouths of my peers, who presented perspectives, ideas, and assumptions that had never occurred to me before. And this was OK… sort of. Only sort of, because while there wasn’t as much asinine + baseless judgement of others as in high school and we coexisted comfortably enough (nerds banding together!), I never actually reached out to learn how or why these different perspectives came to be.
I remember being dumbfounded and feigning jealousy when one of my freshman peers very comfortably assured us that she was pre-med… because she wanted to be a doctor… because she wanted to help people.
That sounded all well and good, I thought, but what if she doesn’t like being a doctor? Yes, doctors help people, so of course she’d have that covered, but they do it in a very particular way and they’re most effective when they enjoy and can engage fully with the day to day of being a doctor.
I failed to comprehend how this young woman could possibly know she wanted all that. I mean, all the more power to her for knowing what she wanted to do for the better part of the rest of her life, but how could she be sure this far out? There was so much work for her to do, so many things to learn and learn to enjoy before she could be useful as a doctor. Would this pre-med path lead to the best way for her to help people? Or would she get there and discover starting over with something else would be better for her and everyone she wanted to help?
At eighteen, making a decision that impacted the rest of your life was a very terrifying prospect for me, and thus it felt important to leave as many doors open as possible. This was compounded by the fact that I also didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do… beyond learning for learning’s sake, contemplating the world, and asking “why?” more often than not. And so the clarity in some of my peers’ declarations of career choice befuddled me – I wasn’t even jealous, I was too far removed from the practical necessity of applying skills to a profession.
Now I don’t think any one choice or any one path is in and of itself all that critical. So what if this gal didn’t become a doctor (who knows, she may not have!). Engaging fully with the prep for the possibility of doctorhood gave her plenty of useful experiences, I’m sure. She, like all of us, will be continuously confronted with more choices for how to help others and no choice she makes will end all other choices.
People are deeply resourceful. If one path does not lead a person where she wants to go, she will eventually create another path.
Finding yoga is all about creating paths to yoga –and it doesn’t really matter which path is yours nor how many you try before you find the best fit.
Yoga will wait for you to discover it in your own time.
Hari om tat sat!
Experience your true self and bring it into every moment of your living!
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are a classical text on yoga–a guidebook of sorts.
Each week, 216 teacher Esther Palmer dives into one of the sutras and we let it take us where it takes us.