Meditation is the royal road to the attainment of freedom, a mysterious ladder that reaches from earth to heaven, darkness to light, mortality to immortality. ~Swami Sivananda, on Raja Yoga
Yoga is defined in yoga sutra 1.2, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” Vividly I recall listening to that verse chanted in the background as I practiced yoga by CD with my first teacher. I remember wondering what exactly “cessation of the fluctuations” meant, having had no experience with cessation of my own mental fluctuations. When the first sip of mental clarity occurred, it was truly life changing.

When defining yoga, I prefer a simpler interpretation of verse 1.2,  “Yoga is the space between the thoughts.” This is brilliant! When we are enslaved to the habitual patterns of the mind, we will undoubtedly be tossed about, identified with our story. The practices of yoga provide the tools with which we can step out of the reaction to our thoughts and into a space of clarity and freedom. 

Inner freedom, according to yoga, occurs when our presence in the moment (prana) grows so strong that we let go of our inner narrative and become the watcher of our own awareness. Moksha, or liberation, occurs when we release ourselves from the patterns or grooves of the mind, unraveling our unconscious patterns. When moksha is reached, we are released from the bonds of karma.  Then we are truly free.
In my personal yogic journey, I describe the opening between my thoughts as coming first in centimetres that would quickly close. Gradually, with practice, small gaps of space appeared. Eventually larger gaps of space opened, and as my “story” dissolved, that space remained open for longer periods of time.  Through disciplined practice, I experienced a new way to be with my thoughts, eventually releasing many of my early life patterns of mental gymnastics.
Being that I am a householder, not a monk, finding space between my thoughts while negotiating relationships and doing the tasks of daily life is a challenge. Throw in a global pandemic, confronting systemic racism, an election year and a turbulent economy, I will happily take any mental space I can find. Yet, when I apply the tools of my practice–asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation, I find that once again I become the observer, free from my turbulent ego mind.
In September I will lead a 4 week series The Path to Inner Freedom, guiding the deeper practices of raja yoga that light the path to inner freedom. Through asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation we will step onto the royal road and open our arms toward freedom.
~Jai Bhagwan