Monday, July 12, 2010

Becoming an Expert

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are an authoritative text on the practice of Yoga. Ever since I was introduced to this ancient text, I've always liked and remembered some specific lines from it. Today I want to share one of them which has deep meaning for me in the practice of Yoga, Sudarshan Kriya, and meditation, but also in other aspects of my life.

sa tu dīrgha kāla nairantarya satkārā sevito dṛḍhabhūmiḥ

In the context of Yoga, Maharshi Patanjali says three things are needed to establish oneself and be firmly grounded in the practice of Yoga:

dīrgha kāla: For a long period of time.

nairantarya: Without a break.

satkārā sevito: With honor and respect.

Doing the practice for a long period of time, without a break, with honor and respect — that's what it takes to become firmly grounded in the practice of Yoga and all the benefits to the mind, body and spirit that it brings.

But wait, that applies to becoming an expert in anything, doesn't it? All around us we see people who are experts in their domain. More often than not, the above three steps outline how they got that expertise. Very few people are born as prodigies; expertise gets built up over time. And time alone is not enough; steady application of oneself unbroken in time is essential. And these two together do not make one an expert, if the attitude and approach to the task or craft are casual or irreverent. A sense of honor and respect is also essential.

Want to master a musical instrument? It takes years of unbroken practice. Want to become a pro golfer? You need to hit the links several times a week for years together. Want to be great at what you do? Keep at it... with honor and respect! Often we dabble in something and give it up after a while if we don't get results from it, and take up something else... without realizing that value gets built up more and more over time when we stick to one thing.

There are many more such simple and insightful lines I love from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, including the definition of Yoga, which I will leave for another post. Hint: it's not just the practice of tying your body up into pretzel shapes. Thanks to Shriram Sarvotham and his amazing teaching of the Sri Sri Yoga course for awakening my interest in this text. Guruji has given a fantastic commentary on the Yoga Sutras in 11 talks; I highly recommend listening to the whole series.

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