In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the second teaching is Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha (I:2): Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations in Consciousness. These teachings are embedded wisdom that appear across cultures if we are able to listen. Take pause! Notice! Rest in the moment! Whether you choose to ‘smell the coffee’, ‘smell the roses’, or my personal favourite, ‘smell the lilacs’, these are moments in our day when for a minute, everything else ceases, and we’re completely absorbed in the present moment. All of the senses, including the mind, are harmonized to this one thing. This is meditation in action. And when all of our being is harmonized to the experience of this moment, we are clear, we are non-reactive. In these moments, something special happens.
- We are clear! Suddenly the many competing demands of the day that keep our mind hopping take a back row seat. We drop back into the stillness that is at the base of things, and sudden insights may appear, we may see a pattern of behaviour or thought for what it is, or we may simply recognize that beneath it all, everything is simply okay as it is. Relief!
- We are in harmony! When all of the senses and the mind are directed toward the present moment — we see, smell, appreciate and are absorbed in the lilac experience — we are fully present to the moment. We feel a harmony within and without ourselves; there is a connection the our environment, to the Whole. This absorption is dharana leading to dhyana, concentration leading to meditation. We realize that this is a natural state or phenomena, not something rare or difficult to attain. We can choose to drop into harmony regularly and feel connected.
- We are non-reactive! Short moments of non-reactivity, in which the mind is still, help us begin to unravel the constant chains of action and reaction that we ceaselessly create through constant busy-ness. We are able to cleanse the mind, to begin the process of clearing samskaras, starting with periods of simply not creating any. This gives a deep sense of inner peace.
It may seem like a simple ‘tree-hugger’ thing to do, but it is a powerful choice. Just stop and smell the lilacs. Stay fully in the process for several minutes, and notice how you feel. Then, throughout the day, recall that moment of peace and go fully into it, taking deep breaths. Another of my favourite teachings of Patanjali, Sutra I:38. Stillness can be attained be recalling an ecstatic state or the experience of deep sleep. Regularly recall the feelings of peace and harmony — every hour as your watch beeps, if you can — recall the feelings, take several deep breaths, and you will reproduce those well-being hormones and harmonized thought waves into your present moment. Smell is a particularly powerful trigger of memory, so even when the lilac season is over, remember, savour, and just be!
Stopping, smelling, memory, taking the time, it’s all yoga!