As summer days find me pondering on my porch sipping a cup of tea, my mind flows to the preciousness of time. I mull over the countless teachers whose message is presence and mindfulness in the moment. And as the gentle breeze finds my skin and the sun warms my face, I understand.
There are so many ways we lose these precious moments of life by checking out into places of the past, the future, or into our own version of storyland. And when we check out of the current moment, we lose time. I wonder as I sit here if one of the most destructive losses of time is the war we wage on ourselves. Too busy engaged in battle, we aren’t available to time itself.
How does this battle happen? It happens through our indecision, self-abuse, and our incessant and idealistic expectations, to name a few. All of these expressions of confusion and self-doubt create a battlefield of conflict in the inner recesses of our mind.
On this battlefield, the casualties of war are parts of ourselves: our own strength, fortitude, and clarity. Waging war with ourselves makes us weak. It is the most insidious battle of all. It is as if we were lying in the street bleeding and took a knife and stabbed ourselves some more. We only increase the pain, distancing ourselves further from mindful living.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali speaks to this tendency to wage war on ourselves. He says to observe your thoughts, words, and actions. When they cause any hint of disharmony for yourself or another, move as quickly as you can back to harmony. Don’t lose any more time by lingering in the disharmony, just shift direction. You have fallen off that narrow path of harmony; now climb back on. No need for self-abuse; just become more and more familiar with what harmony feels like and climb back on board when you fall off the trail.
This is the practice. Not perfection, but a continual returning. Not self-flagellation, but self-awareness. Not an increase of pain, but a lessening of pain. This is the path of yoga.