The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living By: Stephen Cope (2007) ISBN 978-0553380545
With the crisis in Haiti still at the center of our attention, we are going to take another one of this author’s notorious segues off the beaten trail before discussing this beautiful book by Stephen Cope. With your kind patience, I would invite you to our supper table last night…
We have three girls, of whom two are young teenagers and the third is doing her best to catch up with her sisters. Our middle child had missed the bus; quite an inconvenience given the one hour return trip into town to retrieve her. As usual, I had the late afternoon supper activities planned in advance with my wife and well under way when the call came. Her reason for missing the bus; sitting with a friend in the office so she would have company while her friend waited for the phone. I admit I was angry, and arrived at the table steaming when supper was finally ready. Our whole family participates in a Buddhist tradition of not eating past five o’clock – it was now five-thirty and we had just begun. Grrrrr!
The Yoga of offering food
Thankfully, my wife quietly reminded me that speaking in anger would not accomplish anything, and I should eat a little first and relax a bit before speaking. That is her code for “stop being such a baby,” and I deserved it, I know. I sat down and growled to our daughter that I would have words with her later regarding the bus incident and commenced to eat. My first bite reminded me of another Buddhist practice which became the discussion point of our meal and ties in with not only Haiti but the real topic of this article, the book review.
There is a practice known as The Mahayana way, the Yoga of giving food. In the Mahayana tradition, we mindfully are thankful for each bite, and with awareness make charity of our food to all of humanity, past, present and future. In our family discussion, we talked about the people who had died in the Haiti earthquake, as well as those still struggling to survive. When we see hunger and starvation, or a lack of anything we take for granted so easily, we need to be mindful of how fortunate we are and generate compassion for those suffering.
Compassion for others
Our middle daughter (the one who missed the bus) asked if we were going to do anything to help those in Haiti. My reply was yes, but we were already beginning to do something to help simply by bringing compassion for others into our daily activities, including eating. In learning to make a conscious offering of any activity that brings physical, mental or spiritual fulfillment, we move our awareness away from being self-centered and become centered on all of humanity. These thoughts and intents generate actions that not only you will take, but actions that others will participate in as well.
My daughter’s response absolved her completely in regards to the bus: She said that caring for others shouldn’t be only when we see it on TV and in the news, but should be a daily commitment with herself – her mind was not in the right place when she went to the office with her friend, but her friend did not want to be alone and she acted from the heart in staying with her… My daughter then added it was wrong to do and would accept whatever punishment was coming to her.
What could I say? The student surpasses the teacher, it appears. What she did was not wrong, but the embodiment of a lesson we have always strived to teach our children. In our adult lives of modern chaos, careers, relationships, family dynamics, global upheaval – awakening to simple wisdom with childlike wonder is more relevant than ever before…and the subject of The Wisdom of Yoga.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Using the real life daily problems of a group of yoga students and friends, Stephen Cope brings to life the teachings of the Yoga Sutra; a text revered for nearly two thousand years as containing the complete body of the wisdom of Yoga. The Wisdom of Yoga reveals the teachings of this difficult and enigmatic Sutra through the life stories of close friends and Yoga students, showing the principles at work in their daily struggles.
There are many whose definition of yoga is seen as a rejuvenating and invigorating series of Asanas and breathing exercises, but these physical practices are only the tip of the iceberg of an immeasurable body of wisdom and ancient spiritual science. In Patanjali’s own words, the first two Sutras of the Yoga Sutra read: “Now the teachings of Yoga. Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness.” Raj Yoga (or the wisdom tradition) is brought to life in The Wisdom of Yoga as an effective tool for diagnosing and repairing the inner workings of Mind, Body and Spirit.
Through Stephen Copes personal stories, readers will be able to identify similar core struggles in their own lives. The eight limbs of Yoga (behavior, discipline, posture, breathing, sense cessation, concentration, mediation and finally enlightenment) are used to artfully demonstrate their effects in uncovering the roots of our own fears, illusions and self-deception through the lives and actions of Copes characters. By interweaving their daily predicaments with insights from religion, philosophy, neuroscience and modern psychology, The Wisdom of Yoga. demonstrates the suitability and practicality of the Yoga Sutra and its teachings of awakening.
One of the profound lessons of The Wisdom of Yoga is found in the Sanskrit word Nirodha, used in the original second verse of the Yoga Sutra. This is defined as ‘cessation’ or ‘to make still’ and is both the goal and path of Yoga practice. Through cultivating this stillness of consciousness, we are able to see the world around us more clearly and with deeper insight, intuiting the answers to our needs and the needs of those around us.
Through The Wisdom of Yoga, a step-by-step path exists, laid out in ancient antiquity for awakening mankind to a greater reality and Truth. This is not a path where you will be told what truth is, however. It is a map pointing to waypoints of reference along your own path to the realization of your true existence and human potential. In short, it gives the tools to find the answers for yourself.
The Wisdom of Yoga rates and is a must read in today’s modern society. If you enjoy the physical aspects of Yoga, you have only begun to expose the tip of the depth and breadth that is Yoga. Dive deeper and enjoy the journey.
I dedicate this offering to the people of Haiti and all of those who suffer in this world. May your plight realize compassion in all humanity and not go on in vain. By diminishing our number by one, we diminish the whole of ourselves. May we all realize true wisdom and compassion for each other and all of nature’s beauty in all our activities…