Simply Start Where You Are

One of the fundamental principles of yoga is that you simply start where you are. How easily that principle extends to life. Or at least how easily it can if we so choose.

In the first Yoga Sutra, I.1, Patanjali begins with the word atha. Often translated as “now,” atha can also mean a blessing, turning point, or commitment. It implies that regardless of what we were doing before, now we are making a decision to practice – or maybe to proceed in life in a certain way. Practicing yoga or making a decision to proceed can meet us and serve us right where we are, whatever our age, interest, situation or perceived ability.

So once we choose to practice yoga or to proceed in a certain direction in life, how do we evolve? How do we start from where we are but actually go somewhere? How do we make the decision to practice or proceed a prudent one?

Imagination—our ability to create images not available to the sensory system—is arguably our greatest faculty for evolving human consciousness. Maybe in order to transform ourselves, we need to be able to leap out of the familiar and into the unknown. Find a way to imagine a future different from the past, a self-sense different from the one we have now. Of course, we are shaped by our memories, our karma and the patterns woven into our bodies. Undeniably, we’re also influenced by culture and physical circumstances. Some of these factors are hard to change. But the imagination can help us begin to replace our internal patterns, especially the ones that keep us limited and stuck. If we can reimagine our sense of who we are, we can change our experience of life. Yoga (and life) is all about what happens when we recognize this truth. If you can imagine yourself, say, free of suffering, you’ve taken the first step toward that freedom.

In The Biology of Transcendence, Joseph Chilton Pearce writes: “Rather than the senses impacting the mind with imagery, as in ordinary seeing, through imagination the mind impacts the senses with imagery.” Acts of imagination can connect us to that place where insight and inspiration arrive unbidden—as an out-of-the-box idea, the first line of a poem, or a direct recognition of who we are beyond our ordinary self-definition. Imagination links us to infinite possibility, the realm from which all genuine creative insights arise. Imaginative constructions work because they encourage us to identify ourselves with a higher truth, and then to feel how that affects our inner experience, our body, and our sense of self.

Yoga at its heart is a practice for evolutionary spiritual growth—growth into our own highest possibilities. Imagination lets us find our way into those possibilities. By training the imagination, harnessing its power, we can use it for creating beauty and truth. Then our acts of transformative imagination become genuine acts of power. They can change our inner state, influence how we extend ourselves to one another and enable us to evolve in a genuine way.

Imagine that. 😉

Inspiration from articles found on Yoga Journal by Sally Kempton and Kate Holcombe.

Music for Today:  Into Dust, Mazzy Star (So Tonight that I Might See, 2009)

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