A Life of Sensations

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O for a life of sensations rather than of thoughts.—John Keats

When considering what to explore in this month’s Tranquil Space muse, I began by pulling images that represented spring’s simple pleasures: pink blooms, vegan cupcakes, rose tea, yoga, and journal writing. After compiling the collage, I looked for a quote that touched on life’s little luxuries and came across the above Keats quote.

You may wonder what simple pleasures or a life of sensations rather than thoughts has to do with yoga. As a teacher and practitioner who has been keen on incorporating yoga beyond the mat, I found the quote apropos. And, let’s be honest, the physical practice of yoga is filled with sensations.

Since we get the importance of infusing our everyday with beauty, I wanted to touch on the second part of the Keats quote . . . thoughts. We are estimated to have 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. Considering 90-95% of them are repetitive and 80% are considered negative, yoga (and mindful living) is a balm to work with our human condition.

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.2, Patanjali writes yoga chitta vritti nirodha. This is often translated as “yoga as the cessations of the fluctuations of the mind.” While we may consider yoga to be the physical practice of poses on a mat, Patanjali is emphasizing quieting the mind as the core of yoga practice. And Keats, also, emphasizes the connection to sensations over a busy mind.

While we need our mind to be a productive, thoughtful member of society, we also need training to focus and quiet the mind to live as Patanjali and Keats encourage. This comes through meditation, time in nature, yoga, and any other activity that allows you to get lost in the flow.

Practicing the sixth limb of yoga, dharana (concentration), offers the opportunity to quiet our monkey mind and notice the sensations within and around us. Feel the air on your skin. Notice the beat of your heart. Observe any cravings. Slow down to taste your food. Pay attention to sensations as you move through sun salutations.

As we welcome May, consider Patanjali and Keats when you find yourself stuck in rumination or worry. Similar to the life-saving technique of “stop, drop, and roll,” remember to STOP: stop, take a breath, observe what’s happening, proceed with awareness.

May we have more sensations from life’s simple pleasures and less distraction from a mind stuck in the past or worrying about the future. Namaste.