Open Wounds

Patanjali and the Yoga of Writing

Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras some 3,000 years ago. Of course he wasn’t really the writer in the sense that he came up with them. He took what had been an oral tradition of verse, like the Vedas, India’s sacred texts, and put them down on paper. He codified the words so they could be remembered, forgotten, read and remembered again.

I’m using the Yoga Sutras in my yoga classes this month as a way to provide intention to the sequences and rhythms of the class. So much of yoga is about intention and focus. Without them it is just a physical exercise class. With them it teaches the great inward journey through the mind and down towards the soul of great cosmic “stuff”. Seriously. I’m not kidding. Every class opens the great doors of the mind and offers training for the journey in. Each reading of the Sutras I find new paths to follow and this text fascinates me.

I was thinking about the Sutras and writing and where I’m at now with my new work. The first sutra from the first book on Concentration, is as follows:

Sutra I:

Atha yoganushasanam.

NOW begins the teaching of yoga.

I know. I know. What is all this talk about yoga and what does it have to do with writing?

For me everything.

I don’t know where true writing comes from. I know it comes out from inside of me. Others writer have told me the same thing. There are times when they look at what they have written and either don’t remember writing it or can’t figure out where it came from.

I don’t believe it comes from a physical place. Creativity is something intangible. I believe it is innate to human beings – just look at any child (before school gets a hold of them and forces them to color within the lines), yet it cannot be touched or held, or examined under a microscope. It’s effects can be – a great novel or a painting or a beautiful song can be read, seen, or heard.

Yoga is about the yoking or bringing together of the individual and the cosmic. It is the journey inward to still the fluctuations of the mind, to rest in the self.

Writing brings me to such a place. It is an inward journey to the creative spark. It is a place that is hard to find as an adult, totally accessible as a child, and each time found just a little easier to return to the next time.

The first sutra says NOW begins the teaching of yoga. It has been, to me, a call to arms – only in this case no swords are necessary. The tools are the physical implements of writing (pencil, pen, paper, computer screen and keyboard), stillness, and a well-trained mind. Writing is all about training the mind to make this inward journey. It’s the same path the yogi takes.

NOW begins the teaching of yoga. Not after the dog has been taken out. Not after Facebook has been read. Not after tweets have been tweeted. Not after blog posts have posted.

And here’s the cool thing. You can learn about yoga and the inward journey from classes but if you really want to learn you have to make the inward journey yourself. Again and again and again. To get the most out of your practice you need to do it every day, even if it’s only for a short time. You journey by yourself and you learn from your experience. That’s why it’s called a yoga practice. No one said the path to even momentary enlightenment would be easy.

Now it’s time for writing practice.


5 responses

  1. Love this post.
    Happy New Year Joe!

    January 1, 2012 at 9:24 am

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Kerry! Happy new year to you too!

      January 1, 2012 at 9:55 am

    • Now I’m going to have to look that story up and add it to my repertoire. Hope your holidays were good.

      January 3, 2012 at 9:33 am

  2. My favorite is the story of Nachiketa and Yama.

    January 3, 2012 at 8:29 am

  3. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve really loved browsing your weblog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I’m hoping you write again very soon!

    January 27, 2012 at 1:55 am

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