Yoga Sutra 2.37

My friend is about to set sail on her boat.  She is planning on a visit to the Channel Islands, then on to France and down to Italy.  She has a plan; she has her qualifications; she knows how to sail and where she hopes to go, but it is not she who will decide where she actually ends up: That will depend on things she cannot control: the wind, the tides, the weather. 

I am watching my grandmother come to terms with the end of her life; seeing her struggle with the difference between the life she actually had and the one she'd hoped for; I think that the difference between the two makes her quite angry.

I am sent a blog from someone who writes with candour and humility about her depression: She has had to learn the difference between her dream of a perfect self and the reality of a human life, which is sculpted into beauty from the mess and scrappiness of the everyday, not surgically cut from the cloth of our plans and our will to see them become reality.

Patanjali tells us in Yoga Sutra II, 37:

"By abiding in freedom from desire of other people's possessions that which is precious is revealed and all that is beneficial is freely given."

Translated by Mukunda Stiles

I am struck by my teacher's translation of this sutra: "that which is precious is revealed and all that is beneficial is freely given." 

We often read or hear someone posit that although they would not have chosen to have a certain event happen to them, in retrospect neither would they alter a single thing; it is a kind of accommodation, an acceptance that we don't always know what is in our best interests, what is going to break open our hearts that we might live forever with more wisdom and compassion.

We don't get what we want in life, we get what is beneficial to us and this is what helps us to uncover the rich tapestry of our own life stories.  We set off like my friend in her boat, with a plan of action and an idea of what we are going to achieve.  Things naturally beyond our control throw us off course and take us to places we did not want to visit: the uncharted waters of bereavement, disappointment, sadness, disagreement and uncertainty.  What are we to do?  Often we ask ourselves, Why me?  Or even, What is wrong with me that this should happen (and sometimes, keep on happening).

Why me? is the right question, but we need to ask it in a different tone: We need to ask with curiosity, so that it becomes, Why me?  What do I have to learn?  Why me?  Which of my weaknesses and blind spots are being revealed?  Why me?  How am I going to grow where I need to grow?  What do I need to move towards?  What do I need to let go of? 

When we ask this way, we avoid victimhood and anger and fill our lives with meaning and purpose.  When we ask this way, we make something beautiful and full of love out of difficulty and strife.

You have probably heard the Japanese word kintsukuroi: it is the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. 

Knowing that we have the capacity to become more beautiful from the cracks in our veneer, stronger from the things that might have shattered us, we cannot sit for long in the kind of self-pity that bleats, Why me?  Poor me.  Knowing this to be the case leads us to embrace the light and the dark in our day and to know that we are complete. 


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