I have been having such a great "working over" lately – re-reading the Yoga Sutras in prep for teaching the Advanced Teacher training – (aka 500 hour program). We’ve been reading the Bryant, Hartranft and Remski versions. In addition I’ve been poring over my notes and audios from Paul Muller Ortega’s teachings on the sutras and reading Feurstein’s Sutras. I’ve got Yoga-Sutra-brain.
It’s interesting because in a way I’d dismissed this text – the Yoga Sutras. I’ve always felt a deep bow of gratitude and respect towards the amazing saints and practitioners who are correlated with this text and upon whose Yoga shoulders I stand. But basically – since finding my Yoga philosophy home in Tantra – I’ve argued against the Classical philosophy of the Yoga Sutras more than I’ve tried to get inside of it.
Back in the day – I just accepted it. I read the Yoga Sutras for the first time 40 years ago. It was the Bible. I wonder (since I can’t remember) what my 18 year old self must have made of it!? I think I must have glazed over or gone into some sort of dissociative state when I came to the parts that so very clearly leave women and householders behind. (This text is a teaching aimed primarily towards males who are monks or renunciates).
I do remember my reactions with subsequent readings through the years. If I was not benumbed or feeling feminist annoyance, I would feel that I was outside of grace – and that I should try harder / do better. (And here I’m reminded of Leonard Cohen line: “when you’re not feeling holy your loneliness tells you you’ve sinned”)
This time through the Yoga Sutras is different. The difference is due to lots of factors. For one thing, repition is the MA of deeper understanding. But also, the difference is thanks is the context and mission of our whole 500-hour program:
“Deepen your roots in the Lineage and Tradition of Yoga
Evolve Yoga in your world and in your words.
Grow the Light”
This time, instead of arguing against or dissociating, I’ve been holding myself quite strongly at the edge in my study. And it’s been amazing. (surprise, surprise! Change and growth really does happen at the edge.)
It remains true that in many respects, the Yoga Sutras really do not apply to my female and householder and 21st century life. But I’ve not been getting up on my “high horse” nor have I numbed out. Nor have I numbed out on my high horse. Nor do I feel I’ve sinned” (although I do get twinges of that old ghost). Mainly, I just try to dive in and imagine who was being spoken to – and what the teaching and practice must have been like for them. I imagine what it might have been like way back then, if I was a mother and one of my son’s chose this terribly strong and austere path. I try to imagine what that would have been like for him. What would he have discovered? Would he have merged with the Light? I wonder.
Of course – there are also so many beautiful teachings in the Yoga Sutras - teachings that I never did have to defend against – or numb out to. And I am able to go deeper with those as well.
I still am visited from time to time by an intolerant, fundamentalist thought form that would have me throw the baby out with the bath water. This can happen when I come to teachings that are so clearly body, earth and feminine negative. But now, somehow - I feel clear permission to keep the baby and toss the bathwater.