Imagine you were beginning an incredible journey, through unknown lands, sure to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles as well as glorious vistas, dreadful moments of struggle but also times to rejoice and celebrate – all the ups and downs that a grand adventure contains. Now, who would you bring along with you? Picture them. Surely you’d want someone that would bolster you up and cheer you on when it became challenging, someone that would be patient with you when you needed love and then someone who would sing, laugh and smile with you at just the right moments. Now imagine that the journey is through your inner landscape and the companions you choose are your thoughts. This really puts our mind into perspective!
Through the practice of Yoga, we learn to become discerning with our thoughts, usually starting with just the awareness of them. This alone can be daunting, even frightening, when we begin to see how some of our thought patterns are possibly not the healthiest choices, not the ideal travel companions. Meaning to say that, the thoughts we indulge are perhaps not serving our greatest expression. We start to notice selfishness, fear, jealousy, guilt or a myriad of other thoughts that keep us from feeling awake and connected to life. Would you want those to accompany you on your homeward journey?
Thoughts are powerful, and if we do not stay vigilant with what thoughts we nurture, then we can get caught in a downward spiral. Yogis of old knew of this cycle and analyzed it thoroughly. Narada’s Bhakti Sutras (Sutra 44) warns us of the cyclical perils of Kama (desire), Krodha (anger) and Moha (delusion). Desire makes us want something, usually showing up when we perceive lack. And, if you haven’t noticed yet… surprise – life doesn’t always hand us exactly what we ‘want.’ This in turn can fuel anger, expressed outward at anything or anyone we think is keeping us from what we desire. All of a sudden we are not seeing the world clearly, deluded by thinking the world owes us something and that we are somehow separate from it. A complete illusion that our mind has conjured up by not having it’s desires met, and all this sparked from a simple thought of desire. In this state, we then lust after something else to fill this self-made void and the cycle starts again with desire, reeling out of control.
It is the smallest of waves that turn to mighty swells in the ocean. A vigilant mind keeps a close tab on what thoughts are reinforced and what thoughts are simply acknowledged, and then released. Yoga helps us with this process. My dear teacher, Rusty Wells, would tell us to every so often walk up to a mirror, take a look and simply say, ‘Perfect!’ I personally am aware that it can be too easy to attach oneself to the self-defeating thoughts that keep us separate, yet the yogi must exercise the mind to become a powerful tool, developing the skill of discernment. Remember, where your attention goes, your energy follows. From a tiny cucumber seed smaller than my pinky nail, I have grown a crop of cucumbers. And every day I need to pull the weeds. What will you nourish?
Choose your thoughts wisely and enjoy the journey home.
*This writing is deeply influenced by the Prem Prakash translation of Narada’s Bhakti Sutras. I highly recommend this text. Deep thanks to my teacher Lisa Asha Rapp for guiding me to it.
Join Nat for “Big Sky Bhakti Bliss: A Montana Yoga Retreat,” July 17 – 23, 2021 at Feathered Pipe Ranch! Relax, de-stress and give yourself the gift of this all-inclusive yoga retreat where we’ll dive into the healing practices of Hatha, Bhakti, meditation and so much more.
About Nat Kendall
San Francisco based yoga teacher & student, musician, surfer and lover of life; Montana native Nat Kendall gives reverence to the teachings he has received – helping students nurture their own creative expression and meaningful connection with life. A dedicated student for the last 10+ years, he teaches vinyasa infused with all other limbs of yoga and has studied extensively with Rusty Wells, Janet Stone & Jai Uttal. His devotion-filled classes are invigorating and simultaneously nurturing as he creates a space filled with focus, kindness, laughter, chanting and great music to safely explore the deep benefits of the practice.
Learn more about Nat: natkendall.com