I've been rereading Chip Hartranft's translation of The Yoga Sutras. I'm trying to do it slowly and methodically this time around. It's been interesting to go back to the text and see what I underlined previously and see what resonates with me this time. Today it's got me thinking about my butt.
Specifically, I was thinking about how the pain that I used to feel EVERY TIME I sat down in formal mediation- pain in my butt, back, feet, and just about everywhere else, seems to have calmed down during recent visits to my meditation cushion. I got out of my meditation yesterday with a foot that had fallen asleep, but I hadn't realized it had fallen asleep.
Patanjali says that our practice must be continuous, for a long-time and with faith. Chip explains in his translation that "sustained effort is required because the forces of distraction are strong and unrelenting. Furthermore in the first phase of stillness, they tend to increase the longer one remains immobile, as body sensations build and the impulses to move or think about what's happening intensify. At this point abhysa (practice) is easily misperceived as a struggle against discomfort and restlessness. Soon though, one begins to regard the very sensations of discomfort and restlessness as indivisible from everything else that can be felt, and they cease to be a problem. For this reason one must persist in returning to the here and now, holding onto the possibility of calm and lucidity, even in those moments when the body feels under siege." (emphasis mine)
The phrase "first phase of stillness" can be a godsend when we struggle with discomfort on the cushion. When the body starts hurting, we can use this as a reminder that this obstacle is part of the path instead of in the way of it. The discomfort of sitting is an expected part of the beginner's practice. Eventually, with sustained practice, the pain in the butt that you feel (or wherever) ceases to be a problem. And truthfully, some days this feels unlikely. Here is where the faith in practice that Pantajali wrote about is required.