Cultivating Calm Amongst the Chaos

I was reminded of the power and practice of sthira sukham asanam yesterday as I frequented my favorite tea place in Tampa. I entered the establishment to the sound of eight or nine cackling, loud pre-teens. The cacophony of noise was overwhelming as I tried to study the list of teas. The sign above me read: “Welcome to your happy place.” Yeah right, I thought. THIS is not my happy place. I felt more like the Grinch amongst the incessant chatter and laughter. I debated turning around and leaving, but instead chose to stay. Irritation coursed through my veins and the following thoughts played on repeat in my head: “This is a tea place, it should be quiet. What is the matter with them???”

I ordered a pot of tea and a pumpkin coconut curry soup, all while throwing dark glances at their chaperone, willing them to leave. I came here to work, to study, for peace and quiet. The one place where I could hopefully escape the sirens and noise of living in a downtown, busy city. I searched for a table as far away as I could and as I sat down, I tried to quiet my thoughts. The girls left, but then I noticed a patron on the phone not that far away having a very loud conversation; the person she was talking to, talking back on speaker phone. Between that and the music coming over the speakers was enough to make me scream. I debated leaving, but I had already placed and paid for my order.

I grabbed for my noise cancelling headphones when my eyes landed on the beautifully painted tea pots in front of me. I hadn’t really noticed them before. I steadied my gaze and brought my awareness inward. Repeating sthira sukham asanam a few times silently. Steady, joyful, seat. Steady, joyful seat. As I continued for a few moments, the noise began to dissipate. My mind calmed, my mood softened. I could still somewhat hear the other patrons and the music, but inside I felt calm, centered, at ease.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.46, Sthira sukhamasanam is finding that stillness within you. Calming the body, mind and soul so that you can act from a place of evenness, steadiness and balance. In my classes, we’ve been exploring this yoga sutra in the asana or postures. But how can you find steadiness and ease in all you do? Within every moment, every breath?

It comes with practice and repetition. Yoga gives us many tools and techniques to still the fluctuations of the mind. One such technique is mantra. Mantra is a word or short phrase that is repeated silently to anchor the mind to a still-pointed focus. It can be done anytime, on or off the yoga mat. It can be simply saying inhale as you inhale and exhale as you exhale. By repeating this word or phrase, the busyness of the mind begins to dissipate, and you are left with a feeling of equanimity.

I invite you to try this anytime you are feeling irritated, overwhelmed, angry or annoyed.