The 9th Rasa is Calmness, Shanta. Like Shanti meaning Peace. Shanta’s Bhava of Calmness is experienced as an untroubled steadiness, a feeling of peace, contentment, ease, serenity, relaxation, rest, tranquillity, quietude, stillness and equanimity of body, energy and mind. Everybody longs for real peace of mind, some calmness, though only a few people as well as yogis really attain it. We idealise the objectification of a Yogi, perceiving the Yogi able to do, think and/or be nothing. We see physical practices that are so beautiful, flexible and strong and aspire to attain the ability to do that. However, we are human, we can’t runaway from being human, we can’t do more vinyasa to fix it. Standing on our heads, back drops or full lotus pose isn’t going to solve the reality of being human. Acceptance of our humanity is key and treating Yoga-Asana as a tool to deepen the practice of Yoga to attain the State of Yoga.
Yoga means Meditation by attaining Nirodha, stillness. Kaya Nirodha is physical stillness. Prana Nirodha is energetic stillness. Citta Vritti Nirodha is mental/emotional stillness. Once this is attained we experience Samadhi, full absorbtion that leads to stillness, a no-thingness, absent of activity, emotion and ego. A oneness, wholeness, completeness that the state of Yoga is said to bring, true liberation or freedom Kivalya.
This is HARD. This is why there isn’t more Buddhas, Jesuses, Moseses, Krishna’s, Muhammads, enlighten ones walking the world. Yoga Sutra 2.46 state how to practice Asana one just need two things stability – Sthira and ease – Sukham. Patanjali’s purpose of asana was to be stay and comfortable in the posture to meditate. It is hard to mediate successfully when you are filled with the uncomfortable emotions like fear, resent, anger and sadness. We practice embracing all emotions and see the truth of what they are teaching us, deepening our resolve in the karmic fall out, lessons we need to learn to gain self-knowledge and hope we become wiser as a result.
One way is to use the simple technique described in the Yoga Sutras for complicated emotional and ego driven people. YS 1.29 States the first step, is to turn inward as a solution to busyness outside ourselves. YS 1.30 lists the 9 obstacles, observing our emotional and mental reactions to these obstacles. Focusing on what is difficult and triggering the uncomfortable emotions. Then looking at the well-being underneath the difficulty is key to this process of understanding. YS 1.31 you will notice 4 symptoms of suffering; Negative thinking, emotional distress, instability in the body and disturbances in the breath that mirror the mind. YS 1.32 suggest focus on one thing at a time. Emotions have an attachment to Self ‘I am…fearful, resentful, angry and sad.’ YS 1.33 encourages us to cultivate non-judgemental awareness, friendliness, joy and compassion. Bringing courage, love, wonder and joy to what we notice. Leading us to Calmness. Calmness is empty of self, no self, when we are calm the I-am-ness of the ego expands to the I-ness. The I-am-ness of the ego get identified by the stormy waves of emotions and forget we are the ocean of calmness, serenity and tranquility that is under the surface which represents the inner connective consciousness of it all. We forget and attached to the surface storm of self, uncomfortable emotions, feelings and thoughts that feed the stormy weather reinforcing distracting limited sense of self. The core false belief we continue to feed, retelling the stories of who we think we are becomes distorted by the waves. When the waves calm, we get a clearer reflection of our Self.
Gandhi reduced a teaching so simply to see why we struggle. He was quoted in saying:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Yoga is the mastery of Self-Knowledge cultivating Self-Awareness. To see your true self or nature. This is said to be Pure Consciousness. Consciousness embodied as you, joyous, loving and always free. So the Yoga Sutras lays out a simple practice for complicated people.
YS 2.47 Says create effort by meditating on something specific, becoming more effortless. Asanas are perfected over time by relaxing effort to be in the posture, allowing attention to merge with the consciousness in the here and now, moment by moment awareness. So this is HARD, Yoga Sutra suggest places to put your attention.
YS 1.34 focus on breath awareness, specifically the exhale and the pause after exhale. Notice how calming that is. Pointing to the next suggestion.
YS 1.35 focus on sensation.
YS 1.36 focus on cultivate light.
YS 1.37 contemplate a stable mind. Buddha Smiling Mudra is a great technique as the smile reinforces YS 1.33 as well as the tongue is neurological linked to the brain. As your mind thinks your tongue wiggles, calm the tongue, notice the mind quietens and becomes lovingly calm.
YS 1.38 say practice Yoga Nidra, super calming
YS 1.39 focus on anything useful and pleasing to rest the mind
YS 2.48 when practiced this way the pair of opposites cease to exist or have an impact.
We go beyond duality and we awaken to oneness, wholeness, completeness that state of Yoga. In complete harmony between the mind, energy and body, the inner and outer world and with individual and universal consciousness. A state of acceptance, of surrender, a state of enduring calmness where we just let go and abide in the self as the self in moment by moment awareness to become self-realised and experience Moksha spiritual liberation. Our asana practice becomes on of skilfully taking action for developing absorption, to surrender to the truth of impermanence and open to the state of freedom where no worldly desires, actions or emotions bother you. That one is able to repose in the groundedness of being. Leaning in, letting go and letting whatever emotion be, calmness brings equanimity; greater the letting go, deeper the equanimity. Once equanimity is achieved, peace and tranquility follow.
I like Suzuki Roshi joyful approach to the seriousness of practice, stating ”Gaining enlightenment is an accident. Spiritual practice simply makes us accident-prone.”