“Here now begins the practice of yoga”. This is the first yoga teaching of Patanjali.
But before we go launching into that…
For me, that first sutra always seemed like an introductory statement. Like, oh yeah here we go then. What’s next?
But later I learned that in the yoga tradition the highest teaching is always given first. This left me confused. How could this first sutra be the highest teaching that Patanjali has to give? It wasn’t until my teacher introduced pauses — I think it’s significant that the pauses gave it meaning — into the phrase that I understood why the first sutra is what it is: Here <pause>, now … begins the practice of yoga.
Patanjali was actually discussing meditation and not asana practice. But the truth is the same: what we can work with is right in front of us all the time.
The first and most important act we can undertake, in any practice, is the act of being present. Not just to our triumphs and bliss, the “good” stuff, but to all of it: our aches and challenges. To the whole messy, associative, finger-in-the-wall-socket process of life taking place in and around us. All else is a memory or a dream.
The true point of all this is not merely to stay present, but to do so even as we reach out to life and engage with that process. So that we are tuned in to the non-stop melody, with all its discordant chromatic scales and weird polymetrical time signatures. As any bass player will tell you, if we are not willing to listen to the music of the whole band, how can we hope to create harmony? The most we will get is the odd fortunate, almost accidental moment of synchrony.
Don’t let your life’s music be an accident.
Feel the immediacy of the moment. Lengthen your exhale.
Now go be confused and awesome.