Patanjali Group

Be in the Now.mp4
short example of the teachings
Image description

 

The group was started in January 2018, at the time I was wondering if any students would be coming forward. I started chanting a specific sutra from the Taittiriya Upanisad, requesting students to come forth and with some advertising, they came. Most not having worked with sutras before yet having a desire to know more about these universal teachings. Some are Buddhist, Christian, Catholic, Advaitic and Spiritual/Kabbalist; they all came with open minds all seeking universal truths.


Patanjali clearly shows the path to enlightenment step by step, whilst highlighting how to overcome problems that present themselves on the way.

On a global level we have experienced the recent problem of Covid19 and subsequent ‘lockdown’. The Patanjali group are just a small representation of people who faced some of the difficulties during this time – mental, emotional and practical. Below is an illustration of how we used the teachings to help deal with these, seeing them as challenges for personal growth and expansion. It was also a time where the group formed a support network. Some viewed lockdown’s isolation as an opportunity for increased study and reflection.

 

At the start of lockdown it was agreed that those that could, would meditate together from 8-8.30 am each morning, not just for ourselves but for the whole of our world and everything in it. We started with a beautiful Sanskrit sutra to set the scene. These resonances are not just mere words but divine energies, they do what they say.


We maintain a support network through a Whatsapp group, where we can share help, inspiration and humour; we work as a team with sharing and caring that flows naturally.

 

When Zoom finally took hold and despite all the technical difficulties, we met virtually every Saturday for an hour to work with the teachings. When we return to the ashram we will be a stronger group who welcomes fellow Self-enquirers. Each individual’s knowledge which has been gleaned from life experiences is valued. This Sanskrit sutra that did what it said.


The teachings form a supportive background of protection (saha na vavatu). 

From our coming together we have found joy and laughter (saha nau bhunaktu)

Throughout lockdown we have all grown in strength in dealing our individual life circumstances (saha viryan karavavahai).

Our study and knowledge is expanding as we work together. (tejasvinavadhitamastu). Our study has literally given rise to the light of intelligence and understanding. Patanjali has been found practical for us householders (as the teachings call us). 

There has been no discord between us as we work in harmony, we develop in patience and compassion as we embrace others with no criticism (ma vidvisavahai).

 

 

Feedback from group


I think this really reflects my experience of being a student of Patanjali and being a member of the current class of 2020!

Both have enriched aspects of my life. My spiritual enquiry, my sense of place in the world and friendships formed have been nourished by our regular 'satsang', more than I could have imagined.


You have been so generous with your time and sharing your knowledge of the teachings.  This, along with the fellowship and teachings from the other students, has made this a very special experience that I hold with much appreciation. S


this is very clear and describes well the meetings in the ashram and what happened in early 2020.....and how you overcame the obstacle of our "lockdown" with your generous offer to lead weekly sessions on zoom..I would think more people would like to attend the meetings and teachings in the ashram in september if this was more widely publicised......its a unique course....with a knowledgeable and patient teacher M


We have also enjoyed the weekly top-ups by Zoom. A great way of keeping in touch with each other and discussing how we can apply the teachings to our daily lives. I am also looking forward to some more structured study again at a time when we can restart our sessions at the Ashram 

We both thank you Vanessa for your time and dedication in sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us. We have learnt so much from you and our lives are much richer for it. MG

 

It seems as if, since I have been practicing the Patanjali meditation, about three months now, my life experiences have been like a re-run of when I first started to attend church. First the synchronicity and then the greater understanding and a gradual rise of the light of intelligence. Hence my understanding that it is walking the path that makes the path not looking for it or waiting for it to appear.

The teachings have connected seamlessly into the many other powerful  spiritual paths I have followed that have resonated so powerfully for me and somehow Patanjali seals their truths into a Oneness R


I just would like to reaffirm how strong I feel your guidance is and how bright your light is. You have been like the figurehead on the front of our ship as it ploughs through a storm. I see huge waves crashing over you as the ship carries us forward towards the expanding light on the horizon. We your group are watching and attentive, focused on that emerging light and held safely in the strength of our ship. You took the force of the waves so that we could experience calm. 

 

And your ability to share your connection to the teachings, to accept us all so lovingly with our very different and varied needs and levels of understanding, has held the Light so strongly throughout Lockdown for our group. L

 


Returning in the autumn


The Vedas can be daunting but they were broken down into the Upanisads. I have worked with the main ones but a favourite is the Taittiriya Upanisad, which offers practical meditations. In the autumn term these will be introduced along with offerings from the Bhagavad Gita to enhance the Patanjali sutras. It is to find the joy in working with these whilst enhancing our own particular spiritual journey.


It has been my good fortune to be able to share what I know and to have receptive ears that will listen, question and work with these beautiful sutras, alongside me. There is not just the teacher and student, we both need each other for learning to take place, then knowledge arises.


We move forward as a group and with the possible easing of lockdown, we will be able to return to the ashram for our fortnightly satsang. Dates and times will be published when known.


The group is open to genuine enquirers who want to know the underlying principles of our existence and how to apply them to daily life. 

 


Patanjali's relevance in the 21st century


In today’s world science is the gospel of the multitude which claims to demolish the idea of God. It details what is presented in our physical world but leaves unexplained the subtle realm. As a human incarnation we inhabit three realms - physical, subtle and causal. Those that come to Yoga are blessed to be able to explore and to come to understand both the subtle and causal realms of our existence. 


We have the Patanjali Yoga Sutras which have been tried and tested since they were composed thousand years ago. They are the science of the subtle realm and lay down clear steps for building one’s understanding from the gross world, through the subtle and into the causal. Each sutra is a step which has to be incorporated into one’s being for them to be effective. It is no use treating them lightly when reciting, for they are sacred words and ultimately do what they say.  All words are resonances, resonating in your bhavana (your space of being); for them to work they need correct pronunciation and place of articulation (asya).


When you start to listen to resonance you immediately move away from the physical into the subtle realm. The Patanjali Yoga Sutras are the science of the subtle and should be respected as such. They are the means of ascertaining the Real from the Unreal and take you on the journey of Self discovery. Each step is an aide to this journey, to move you onwards whilst at the same time nourishing and sustaining you on that journey towards the Self.


We are divine beings, yet we can remain ignorant of this fact (avidya – one of the klesas). Ignorance is often described as ‘the cloud of unknowing’, which obscures our vision of the Truth. I also like the image of dust on a mirror, we have to clear the dust off the mirror in order to get a clear reflection. Dust on this journey mainly comes in the form of mental movements (vrttis) in the subtle field of the mind. That is why Patanjali starts with acknowledgement of this C.l.v2 “yogas chitta vrtti nirodha”.  Yoga is a movement away from the surface disturbances of the mind (vrtti) into the deep stillness within (ni-rodha). That which never changes, that which never dies, that which is never affected by the surface waves of the mind – that which is your eternal true essence.


Patanjali has made sure we do not run before we can walk, he has outlined the eightfold Ashtanga Path, which starts with the yama (external observations) then niyamas (internal observations). These need to be put in place for one to be able to absorb the teachings. Next comes asana, where one is seated within. C.2.46 “sthiram sukham asanam” – asana is a steady comfortable posture. The body needs to be stilled first before the breath and mind can be stilled.  Yoga can just be taken on a physical level of movement, working towards a healthy and flexible body. This has many benefits but it misses out the point in the context of the Sutras, asanas are practised so that the body can be stilled, in order that it can sit in an upright position to meditate (sitting on a chair is encompassed in this). Stilling the body is a very necessary stage, for if it is not brought to non movement it will disturb the meditative awareness. We can only discover we are not our body by stilling it and coming away from it. That same applies to the mind. Pranayama is used to give the mind something to focus on as well as slowing the breath down, as breath and mind are correlated.


Our mind is attracted by the senses which habitually turn outward. Our whole world seems a playground for the senses in which to sport but Patanjali teaches us otherwise with Pratyahara. The senses are turned inwards and brought to stillness where from this point we can operate our inner vision and hearing. It is not a deadening of the senses but an enlivening of them in pursuit of our inner essence.


Once we have embraced these first five stages which deal with the physical realm then we are ready to move into the subtle - dharana, which is a preparation for meditation. I refer to it as a soft focus rather than concentration which implies strain and effort. This journey is to your comfortable capacity whilst at the same time giving respect to the journey you are on.


An excellent place for a soft focus is where the bridge of the nose meets the upper lip as you can feel the movement of the breath there which carries the pranic force, entering and leaving the body. It is tangible, leaving no doubt and is imminent to awareness. The body needs to be in a comfortable upright position for the prana to flow in the susumna in the spine and through the chakras centres within it.


In deep sleep at night the breath breathes the body unheeded. The breath breathes us from the moment we are born to the moment we die (whilst we remain deluded that it is us doing the breathing). Allowing the breath to breathe the body is natural and if we do not interfere with it, will take us back to our true nature.  It is the Self breathing our body for us.


Recall the image of the chariot and the charioteer. Self rides in the chariot of the body, buddhi our intellect is our charioteer holding the reins of the mind which are leashed to the five senses. This Self is separate from the body and the mind, although it does operate through them.


Going back to the beginning of the Sutras C.1v3 the ‘drashtuh’ is introduced and this is the witnessing Self – the Seer. It is that which witnesses your body and mind yet is beyond both. At the very beginning Patanjali is highlighting the witnessing awareness, as that will be your companion on the journey inwards.

The importance of the separation will be seen when it comes to mental vrttis, thoughts that enter your mental field. When people come to meditation they are looking for the off button to their multitude of thoughts. Be it memories, night/day dreams, reminisces, plans, recounting events, emotions – the list goes on. What has to be taken on board is that they are not real, they might seem real at the time (as with worry or fear) but they are just waves on the surface on your deep lake of inner awareness. They have to be ignored if you wish to dive deep. I question the practice of mindfulness for the last thing you want to give mental modifications is recognition that they are real; if you do not give them your attention they will lessen.


As one travels on this journey, a clearer understanding of these vrttis takes place; identifying habitual patterns of detrimental thinking which disturb your peace and equanimity of mind. Patanjali looks at these in detail in order to understand their impact and work towards their elimination. Subtle sabotaging thoughts can cause havoc but by understanding their cause they can be simply dropped as they are not real.  Instead stay in the moment, with no past or future, for each moment to present itself as it comes with an ease of being.


Hence the scene for meditation is set - having a comfortable upright body, the focal point of the breath breathing the body at the bottom of the nostrils; we have the witnessing Self observing the process in a living breathing body in the moment. Opening out the listening with the desire to hear we open out to the space. This is your field of awareness ‘citta’. The ‘citta’ can be seen like the empty cinema screen; dharana leads to dhyana, a deepening of your awareness without any doing and you rest in this. Mental vrttis may still try to enter but you ignore them, do not give them your attention, which remains at your chosen point of focus (ekagrata). Ultimately dhyana leads to Samadhi which is the last of the eightfold process.


The whole process is a deepening of your understanding of the Self whilst at the same time identifying the obstacles that obscure that vision and remove them. It is a moving away from the gross physical body, working with the breath, stilling the senses and mind at the subtle level. Patanjali is there for guidance in short succinct sutra format ideal for sounding internally and allowing their resonances to do their magic.


Patanjali is just as valuable today as when it was first written. For those wishing to see the relevance and how these teachings can be incorporated in everyday living, Vanessa will be facilitating workshops at the ashram in the New Year. In the six sessions the core teachings of  Patanjali will be explored.

Starting with “Atha yoganusasanam”.  “Now begins the systematic teachings of Yoga (Union)”.  This initial block will introduce the fundamentals which are experiential, therefore practice of them in between sessions is required, to be able to monitor progress and overcome obstacles.


Please contact Vanessa for further details.