Yoga Sutra 1.17
vitarka vicara ananda asmitarupa anutamat smprajnatah.
I was driving around the other day wondering why Dave is so nice to me. We were married for a while, had two kids, split and now we are dating again and it is going really well. Over the latest months of dating, I am slowly wanting to make more space for him in my life. I’m opening to him again, gradually, and even though it has been scary and I have felt some old hard feelings come up along the way, it is actually working. We are working. Some of those old, less-functional patterns we used to operate under don’t have such a strong hold over us and we are creating new ways of being together. It can be so lovely and beautiful in these moments. Truly. But as is the case in life, the work isn’t ever actually over. Even with all the beauty and lovliness, there are still some die-hard patterns.
Which brings us back to the wondering why Dave is so nice to me. It started after a real flood of niceness in the last week. My 4-year-old and I went on a road trip last weekend to see my friend from elementary school, my friend from middle school and my friend from college. Dave made us 2 road trip cd’s that were really fun. Nora and I had a rockin’ road trip. He made breakfast for me one morning. He invited me to Italy. He wanted to make sure we had an afternoon to celebrate Valentine’s Day. He sends me hilarious text messages and videos that he thinks I’ll enjoy. All around, he’s really great. But, in the car that day, I wondered, “why all this niceness? Why???” And then I got suspicious. “What if I get used to the niceness and I start to need it and then he takes it away? What if he has some ulterior motive that I’m just not seeing or that he’s not even conscious of and then I get screwed… and not in the good way? What… if…” It went on for a little while like this. But then I paused. And this is where it gets interesting.
I stopped wondering about what Dave might be thinking or doing or unconsciously acting upon and I started wondering about myself. “What is the deal with all this suspicion? What does it feel like in my body?” And you know what I noticed? It felt like bracing. It felt like I was trying to protect myself. As soon as I quit freaking out about Dave and started to look at Amanda, I realized that I was freaking out about the closeness. And it wasn’t just the fear associated with painful breaking-up and things we did and said during that time. This is older than that. And deeper. I had this sense that I am guarding against the intimacy—the love, really. Being loved. Feeling loved. This paranoia about Dave and his motives is the well-worn decoy distracting me from what is really going on. Something in me wants to protect myself from feeling vulnerable and open to love.
This is big-breakthrough kind of stuff, people. And it’s really significant because I can’t tell you how many times, in the 18 years I’ve known Dave, I’ve mistaken my own fear for his questionable motives. This is testament to my determination to not be vulnerable because he’s, quite possibly, the most genuine person around. I had to really work at pinning the cause on him and not seeing it in myself. Getting hung up in the first part of the query—the “What’s his deal” part is just the starting point, part A, of this process. I’m coming to see that part B is looking at what my deal is. I was pretty much stuck in that first part for 17.5 years. I guess, sometimes, it takes a while to be ready for part B.
I am reading through my Yoga Sutra study notes from the classes with my teacher, Chase Bossart. I’m up to 1.17. And in YS 1.17, there’s this wonderful description of the process of coming to know ourself, our True Self. It starts with a gross understanding of who we are, vitarka, and it moves toward the subtle stuff, vicara. Ain’t that the truth? You’ve got to start somewhere and you can’t skip ahead. So you begin looking at the big/obvious and then once you get that, you can see the not-so-obvious. This makes sense. Then this sutra goes on to say that this process of moving from gross to subtle brings us endless joy, ananda. Right? Right! There is this wonderful feedback loop that keeps us coming back for more subtle understanding because there is joy in it. It is deeply satisfying and joyful to feel more connected to our Self. When we participate in this process, eventually it becomes our second nature, asmita-rupa. It gets easier to work with this process. That’s just built into how we work as humans. We develop patterns and sometimes, they are actually helpful to us. The patterns can help us on our path to more subtle self-understanding. The 1.17 grand finale says that by following this movement of vitarka to vicara to ananda to asmita, eventually we gain complete and perfect understanding of who we are. It actually says that. We can come to know ourselves that well. Samprajnatah. Amazing.
This five mintues in the car was my little/big taste of what this sutra is all about. It is what yoga is about. Getting to know what’s going on with me is so useful in moving toward who I want to be and toward the kind of relationship that I want to be a part of. And, as Patanjali says, it feels really good to be in the process. It is joyful. I’m going to have to trust that the complete understanding does actually happen for some people because that feels really far away. I’ll bet it does. Mr. P hasn’t been wrong yet.
oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day to you all if you are into that.