A written experience with Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 3.24
“Focusing with perfect discipline on friendliness, compassion, delight, and equanimity, one is imbued with their energies.” – Sutra 3.24
There is nothing quite as powerful as the focused will. Concentration on characteristics one hopes to see in one’s Self (or doesn’t hope to see) can indeed bring these characteristics into being. If we are able to focus with steady flow on beautiful qualities such as friendliness, compassion, delight and equanimity we can feel the space between what is – and what is focused on – fade. That is, the deeper and more disciplined our practice of focusing becomes, the closer we come to embodying our focus.
One can see this in the practice of setting intentions. Mentally we plant a seed; physically we embody the intention. We are what we invest our energies in. The mind has the potential to manifest nearly anything, and the body and the mind are one in nature (individualized only superficially). What the mind manifests the body expresses.
It is also important to note the use of friendliness in most translations of this sutra. When we approach ourselves (or our goals) in a softer, friendlier manner we are more likely to attain our goals. Harsh approaches make for harsh responses.
Sutra 3.24 uses the word Samyana to describe a deep focus that combines the skills of concentration (Dharana) and meditation (Dhyana) where we become one with the object of focus (Samadhi). In other words, Samyana is holding the mind on a particular object with an unbroken flow where the object loses all forms and true meaning remains.
If a yogi harnesses the power of Samyana, it opens up the possibility of merging with objects and/or characteristics of focus. That is, “When a [wo]man can direct his mind to any particular object and fix it there, and then keep it there for a long time, separating the object from the internal part, this is Samyama…The form of the thing has vanished, and only its meaning remains in the mind” (Vivekananda).
In my experience, when you open your heart, focus your mind and commit, the universe responds. Thought waves and energy patterns create habits, which build your character. The obstacles to reaching a higher state/divine self are often nothing but our own impatience, disbelief, insecurity and fear. With Samyana on friendliness, we can relieve the struggle. We can approach our higher nature with a flower not a thorn.
The practice of yoga is a mirror in which we see ourselves each day on the mat (and hopefully, eventually, off the mat). We offer ourselves a space to connect with feeling. “Through Samyana the mind simply manifests what is latent inside of it” (Bryant). We can harness the power of Samyana – focused meditation, deep connection, Oneness – and use this as a way to manifest our True Nature.
Many translations of sutra 3.24 choose to highlight not the qualities of friendliness, compassion etc… but use an object – an elephant – as the point of focus to merge with. In this case the sutra is saying: if one focuses on the energies/strengths of an elephant one can embody the strength of an elephant. This is especially interesting when considering what the elephant symbolizes in traditional mythologies. The elephant was the ride of choice for royalty and for battle. The elephant is a brave, strong, but nimble character. Elephants are said to be able to crush pounds with their trunks but also delicately pick a flower. Elephants are massive animals, but they carry themselves with the grace of ballerinas – their anatomy is so that they walk on their tip toes! Plus, we cannot forget about the elephant deity Ganesh: the remover of obstacles. So what does this all mean? We can use the character of an elephant, like other characteristics of higher Self to focus on (until form dissolves) to close the distance between ourselves and our True nature.
This inspired me to write a poem:
Leaving the battle behind
The sun dim lit
Their foot set pace
Six tusks strong
With the weight of grace
Tip toe pounds of Grey
Frame the Way
Yoked to attention
Intuition and stride
A moment in time
Shiva and Shakti dance
As Indra sways
On the back of an Elephant
In the clouds
On The Way
A wink from The Universe
Paints all Elephants White
From ashes Of Ancestors
And the blessing Of Insight
xo Lauryn Elan Z