In what now feels like a lifetime ago, I recall a profound statement made by beloved teacher, Kira Sloane. She said, “Yoga is relationship…The relationship you’re having, is the relationship you are having.” Her words perplexed me at first.
And then, like any good teaching, it compelled me to look inside for the answer.
Her statement kept going over and over in my mind, “The relationship I’m having is the relationship I am having…”
Finally, I arrived at a place to begin investigating: How I relate to this moment, to another human being, to my body, my mind, or my emotions is always happening within. It is happening within each of us.
The lens through which we view our relationships is based on the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions that occupy our mind. And let’s face it, the lens of our mind can get cloudy in this world. It is not another person’s responsibility to make you or me blank: happy, feel validated, more whole. While we may know this intellectually, in the realm of emotional relationships, where there are many moving parts, we often forget this foundational truth.
We have an opportunity to choose how we relate to, or “yoke” with, life. Is the relationship we are having the one we truly wish to create, or are we relating to life from auto-pilot conditioning that keeps us stuck on a merry-go-round of confusion when it comes to relationships?
In Sutra 1.33, Patanjali lays out the 4 essential attitudes required within relationships to bear the fruit of a clear and tranquil mind. They are: maitri (friendliness) towards those who are happy, karuna (compassion) towards those who suffer, mudita (joy) towards the virtuous, and upeksanam (impartiality) towards wrong-doers.
Nothing sounds more inviting than a tranquil, clear mind. It is the motivation that compels many of us to devote ourselves to the practice of yoga and meditation. Yet if you've ever cultivated anything in life, you know that cultivation is an ongoing process and requires patience and perseverance, a willingness to stick it out after the honeymoon phase, to follow through with purposeful action when challenges arise.
Admittedly, these 4 attitudes of friendliness, compassion, joy, and impartiality can be rocky ground to cultivate within relationships. Especially the relationship we have with ourselves. There is great nobility in selflessness, but it’s hard to reconcile “love your neighbor as yourself” when there is so little love extended toward our own humanness.
Let’s take a moment to consider the application of Sutra 1.33 beginning with our inner relationship, the one we have to the person we believe ourselves to be, the one looking back at us in the mirror each morning. If we can meet her with friendliness when she is happy, compassion when she suffers, joy when she is virtuous, and impartiality when she makes mistakes, I wonder how much more we will be able to extend these attitudes toward others.
Patanjali tells us that when you see someone who is happy, extend friendliness to them. Turning this inward, ask yourself, are you friendly toward yourself, especially when you are happy?
Further, what sparks happiness in you? True, unadulterated happiness? When you catch this wave of happiness, are there obstacles that keep you from experiencing an inner friendliness? Does happiness sometimes feel off limits because there is such suffering in the world? Do you trust happiness?
James Boag, in his teaching on Sutra 1.33, points out that practicing friendliness (maitri), compassion (karuna), and joy (mudita) are non-negotiable in the experience of a clear and tranquil mind. The fruit of practicing these three attitudes is upeksha, or impartiality. These attitudes safeguard us from getting caught in self-judgment when we make a mistake, enabling us to naturally cultivate impartiality within and without. James reminds us, “In yoga, we don’t have to become anything we are not".
It is a great blessing to share the gifts we have been given with others. So often in life, my prayer has been, “Lord bless me so that I may be a blessing.” Yet I know that if there are wounded parts of myself that are not integrated, the relationship will be codependent and disempowering to both parties.
The attitudes of Sutra 1.33 are a lifelong practice. It’s a journey rather than a fixed destination to “becoming” someone who is compassionate, friendly, joyful, and impartial. A clear and tranquil mind allows us to meet the moment - and ourselves - without resistance.
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