In my early twenties, a cat I called Oscar moved into my apartment. The first six months we lived together Oscar was so scared and skittish, I had to pretend I did not see him or he’d panic and hide. I gave him food, shelter, space, and easy access in and out of my apartment. One day, after four years, a few apartment moves, and lots of patience, Oscar gently placed a dead bird at my feet. In our busy lives, to rush becomes a natural rhythm. We rush in and out of relationships, jobs, and desires. Many of us are constantly rushing but where are we going? Why are we in such a hurry? We often rush someplace only to get there and focus on how we will get to the next place; never content to be simply present where we stand.
When we rush we build up momentum and come to hard-braking stops with illness or utter exhaustion. We want to develop a skill, climb a career ladder, learn a yoga pose, yet we often don’t give ourselves the time or space to practice mastering something. We get bored when results are not fast enough. We often rush not because of lack of patience, but rather because we don’t have the faith that things will be okay if we don’t push so hard.
Yoga sutra 1.14 says “It is only when the correct practice is followed for a long time, without interruptions and with a quality of positive attitude and eagerness, that it can succeed.”[i] This sutra embodies the need for faith and belief in our eventual success. When we first start anything, from a new relationship to a new workout routine, we are always excited. We plan and imagine how fabulous our lives will be now that we met this person or are lifting weights for an hour. Eventually though, like anything, the new will become the old and we get bored by the lack of result or are persuaded away by other responsibilities. This is natural and part of the struggle. Sutra 1.14 reminds us that when we practice continually with focus, hard work, and unshakable faith in what we are striving for, we find the patience in the wait. We recognize that to rush is futile in the journey to success.
In yoga practice, we can easily get swayed by the busyness of our lives and not get on our mats. We may get bored or frustrated with an inability to hold bakasana (crow pose) or learn sirsasana (headstand). Sutra 1.14 says we are to practice for a long time with a positive attitude of success. This does not mean just showing up to class but arriving with the belief that you will succeed whether that be in two weeks or six years. With unwavering belief in your success and the drive to continue to work hard you might find each moment a success.
Similar to how we take yoga off the mat and try to live mindfully, we must take our practice and focus for all our success “off the mat.” For instance, if you want peace practice peace. When you see someone who you immediately distrust or are slightly revolted by, practice sending them love. If you desire money, act from a place that you have money and give money, even if only twenty dollars, to the charity of your choice. Make your life the practice.
Oscar lived with me for 13 years before he passed away. For the last several years we were cuddle buddies spooning on the couch. To gain this cat’s trust took years, constant love and willingness to meet him where he was and not where I wanted him to be…and to this day, I have not had a cat more devoted or more loving than he.
[i] Desikachar, T.K.V.. The Heart of Yoga: Developing A Personal Practice. Rochester: Inner Traditions International, 1995. Print.