Mahatma Gandhi was a great influence in Dr. King’s work. Here, he describes his discovery of Gandhi’s teachings:
“…One Sunday afternoon I traveled to Philadelphia to hear a sermon by Dr. Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University. He was there to preach for the Fellowship House of Philadelphia. Dr. Johnson had just returned from a trip to India, and to my great interest. He spoke of the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.
“His message was so profound and electrifying that I left the meeting and bought a half-dozen books on Gandhi’s life and works. Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously.
“As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance…the whole concept of “Satyagraha” (Satya is truth which equals love, agraha is force; “Satyagraha,” therefore, means truth-force or love force) was profoundly significant to me.
…it was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking for so many months. ”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
(quote presented by the King Center in commemoration of Gandhi’s birthday)
I called my mother to wish her Happy New Year!
I asked her about her resolutions for 2020. She said, “Oh, I’m done with that.” She seemed completely ok with it – her voice showed no irritation or resignation. She’s just let it go. She did not say it but I think it was her way of saying, “I am content.”
Contentment is one of the practices presented in yoga as a way of centering yourself in your life and quieting the chatter in your mind.
To be content. To practice contentment.
I am content. I am practicing contentment.
Grammatically speaking, the word is kind of passive. I can’t think of any time I’ve used “Content” or a derivative of it as an active verb.
Practicing contentment is only one of the many ways to center yourself that is outlined in the yoga sutras. There are also practices of non-violence, moderation, friendliness, contemplating positive people or objects that bring you to a peaceful yogic state. I think of the Yoga Sutras as a “how-to” book on living.
The sutras describe a state of yoga as, “Yoga is the ability to direct your mental activity.” BKS Iyengar translates it as, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of your mind.” (Sutra 1.2)
There is a sutra about the yoga postures. “The pose should be steady and comfortable.” Hmmmm….what is the meaning of “steady” and what is the meaning to be “comfortable” in a yoga pose? These words and practices are open to interpretation and translation. Sitting on the couch is often more “comfortable” than doing sun salutations or any poses. The definition of comfortable is subjective, as when you hear a coach tell you to improve your running time but not so hard you can’t carry on a conversation.
The sutras are the how-to guide. The practices are the how. Then, there is how to what?
How to still the churning of the mind? There is no pat answer for this. There is no “life hack.” There are only practices to try and see what happens. You see how one kind of practice affects you. You observe. You experiment.
This is the practice of yoga.
If your mind is not steady and clear, there are ways to make it so. There is no magic. Only practice.
And some days, you might feel content.