The Goal-less Goal


“The yogi is engaged in a game with no end, for the game is simply the sight of his/her own soul”

As we are nearing the end of Light on Life, you might be realizing what a complex organism you are and how seemingly difficult this path of yoga is. But don’t be dismayed or discouraged! In this reading, BKS Iyengar tries to describe that final stage of yoga called “Samadhi”, reminding us that it “is a state to be experienced and cannot be explained”. However, he also reminds us that we all are ALL capable of treading this path of yoga if we apply ourselves to the task.

“Change leads to disappointment if it is not sustained. Transformation is sustained change, and it is achieved through practice.”

It is human nature to seek this bliss of Samadhi, this union with our Self. We all have to admit that an unending, uninterrupted, pure, conscious bliss sounds like a nice end. But, we all also have to admit that most of the “bliss” we have sought or found so far has been temporary, and either we mourn its loss through suffering or just keep seeking it again and again through various means. Wouldn’t it be better to use our time more wisely for the long-term instead of short-term satisfaction?

The crazy part is that what we seek we already have!!! Yoga is a discovering of Self and not a thing from outside we obtain. The eight limbs are there as the practical stepping stones and pathway back to your own truth. But, instead of stepping on and walking that path directly, we look outside for some answer that really isn’t there. We “hope that some new book or new method, some new insight or teacher will be the lottery ticket for enlightenment” when all the while “the knowledge and effort are all within you. It is as simple and as difficult as learning to discipline our own minds and hearts, our bodies and breath”.

We just have to decide to practice and be alert in that practice. Aside from the recap of the eight limbs, two other things jump out at me that are helpful from this reading – the elements of Kriya Yoga, which actually begin the second chapter of The Yoga Sutras, and the seven states of mind. First, he mentions the elements of Kriya Yoga in the example of the man improving himself through skills and investments instead of the lottery. We all need these three elements in our approach to practice:

  1. Tapas – patience, perseverance, discipline in action
  2. Svadhyaya – self study, reflection, intelligence in skill
  3. Bhakti (also Isvara Pranidhanani) – devotion and surrender to the chosen path

And, as we start to pay attention to our own inner workings, it is important to be able to piece apart and understand the stages from a fluctuating mind to the mind in samadhi:

  1. Observe your emerging thoughts
  2. Nip them in the bud before they occupy and control your mind
  3. In that restraint of rising thought, experience a calm and tranquil state of mind
  4. One-pointed attention and concentration on one object arises from this calm
  5. Cultured and refined consciousness comes with the combination of the above restraint and power of concentration
  6. For a moment you will experience a “fissure” where the choice to attach or detach is there
  7. Letting go of the “I” that is not-I gives the opportunity for pure divine consciousness to prevail

And there you have it! Just remember, that this journey is not toward a flash of light with fireworks and rainbows. That is all distraction! The experience is as simple and as profound as the experience of an aligned, alert, aware, and attentive Tadasana (mountain pose), a full and unsullied experience of Self. So, keep practicing!

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.