I’ve been studying the Yoga Sūtras with a mentor / teacher for 46 weeks now. Along the way I have learned a lot about what I’ll call “advice for living” that’s packed into each neatly stated line. There have been some weeks where I was SO ready to move on; there have been other weeks where I couldn’t seem to get enough about what Patañjali was communicating, because I could relate so much.

What’s a Sūtra?

In case you’re not familiar with Patañjali and the Yoga Sūtras: essentially the Sūtras are the documented curriculum of yoga practice. (“Yoga” here meaning a system for living, not just the physical practice we in the West tend to obsess over. In fact, this yoga is much more about the mind than anything else!)

Before the Sūtras, yoga was passed along from teacher to student orally. Sūtra means thread, which is appropriate–each line in the Yoga Sūtras has multiple meanings and levels of depth that (I believe) can only really be grasped from that connection with a trained teacher. If you pick up different translations of the Sūtras, and put them side-by-side (as I’ve seen many people do), it is potentially pretty confusing. So what we’re doing in my class is studying “one way”–or one interpretation. The idea being that after we have an understanding like this, then we can look at others because we’ll have a consistent context on which to base the additional insights.

A Sūtra That Hits Home

Today I’d like to share a bit about a Sūtra that has really spoken to me. It’s Chapter 1 Sūtra 32:


Here are some translations:

  • “If one can select an appropriate means to steady the mind and practice this, whatever the provocations, the interruptions cannot take root.” (T.K.V. Desikachar)
  • “To avoid them, [we must] commit to the practice of a single principle.” (Frans Moors)
  • “For that purpose of counteracting them practice one principle.” (Paul Harvey)
  • “The practice of concentration on a single subject [or the use of one technique] is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments.” (Sri Swami Satchidananda)

Sūtra 1.32 refers to the prior Sūtra, in which life’s inevitable difficulties may become obstacles (that’s the “them” part in the definitions above). I’ll digress a little here: to know whether a difficulty has become an obstacle (in other words, that one is “stuck”), we would observe these symptoms:

  • “mental discomfort
  • negative thinking
  • the inability to be at ease in different body postures, and
  • difficulty in controlling one’s breath” (T.K.V. Desikachar)

I don’t know about you, but yeah, I’ve experienced those!

The way my teacher explains Sūtra 1.32 is to “dig one well”. In other words, focus on one thing. In this context it’s about a yoga practice, but it also has a wider implication for “doing life”.

How this shows up in my life

Prioritizing (Even Positive) “To Do’s”

Many people come to me wanting to “fix” everything that’s wrong about their health or their habits at once. What I see happen in these cases is that the person becomes quite overwhelmed. I fondly recall a client who was feeling stressed out about all the things she had to do in a day. She was very determined to be a healthier, brighter being. We listed out the ~15 things that she had on her daily “to do” list. (Please note that like many of us, she had a full time job that required at least 8 hours of her daily time, excluding a commute each way in Austin traffic!) No wonder she was overwhelmed. Focusing on one thing from her initial list immediately made things much lighter and easier.

Dealing with Chronic Pain

As some of you know, starting in December 2014 I started having pain in my sacrum and right hip. It was relentless, and it would change from day to day. As you might expect, I went on a quest to find out what was wrong with me. In other words, I was eager to get a diagnosis that I might then be able to work with to address the cause of the problem. My mentor at the time observed that I was doing all sorts of things, and for sure, I did many of them at once to try and alleviate the (now) chronic pain that seemed to be affecting every area of my life. It seemed reasonable, and I went almost 2 whole years before that “diagnosis” came. The diagnosis made it easier to focus on treatments for sure, but I wonder now: what if I were to have listened to her? What would have happened if, instead of running around to all sorts of Western doctors and Eastern healers, I had stuck with one practice? I would have saved lots of time and money and energy for sure…and maybe had more peace of mind while dealing with the pain. Would I still have narrowed down what the cause was? I’m still up in the air on this. 🙂

Growing a Successful Business

I’m currently enjoying a read of The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. At the same time, I’ve started working with a business coach to redefine (or rather, to define!) my business model. The business coach talks a lot about “being in alignment”, and what this (and the book) has highlighted for me is that I’ve moved from a corporate job in technology to entrepreneurship in health & wellness (I can finally say that I am in fact, an entrepreneur!). But–I have not clearly defined my business model, and thus I cannot accurately determine whether an opportunity, option, or idea that presents itself is in my (and my business’) best interest / in alignment. As a result, I’m teaching public classes at 3 gym locations, a studio, doing privates, giving workshops / talks (both in multiple locations), offering online programs, seeing clients in my own practice for coaching and Reiki and yoga, trying to get a corporate health gig, etc. As a result my days are very scattered, I’m driving all over the place, and I’m putting energy into all sorts of “random” things! I have not “dug one well” in my business; I’m tired and am not feeling like I’m living up to my full potential.

A related business example is the pretty famous “ONE Thing“. They ask, “what ONE thing (could I do that) would make all other things (on my list) unnecessary?”. Sounds like one well to me!

Final Thoughts

At least since I’ve been free to set my own schedule, I’ve not done especially well with focus. And I’m seeing how this particular Sūtra is so relevant to various aspects of my life. I feel as though I’m in a period of transition: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I believe wholeheartedly that my new mantra of “dig one well” will help me create a life of more ease and joy!

Where in your life do you need to “dig one well?”

“Dig One Well”
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