Lenses for Freedom #01: Transforming Work & Life through the Sutras

Today’s blog signals an intentional shift. One of the most influential texts that informs much of my personal philosophy and action is the Four Chapters on Freedom, Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Over the next few months, I’ll be tapping into a sequential exploration of each of the Yoga Sutras to glean insights on how we can live more mindfully on a daily basis. My bigger vision is that together we can discover how to transform the way we live and work, such that we can collective generate a more conscious world as a whole.

Anchors of Personal Truth

I also intend to add something novel to the conversation around the Sutras. A useful anchoring point for experiencing the world and my place in it has been to embrace a few essential truths. These truths serve to guide the conscious expression of my thoughts, actions and language.

Although these are my own truths, and I fully encouraged you to borrow, invent and refine the ones most relevant to you:

  1. Movement is essential for life.
  2. Embodiment is my deepest source for learning and direction.
  3. Embracing growth means appreciating the cycles of pain and enjoyment.
  4. Community is the answer to disconnection, loneliness and fear.
  5. Meaning and purpose are invented, not found.

It’s worth noting that my personal truths are distinct and different from my personal values, or the attitudes I subscribe to; yet, each one defines a frame through which I choose to establish my way of being and operating in the world.

I have the joy of working with many students: through movement & meditation, through coaching relationships, as a private teacher, and more. In nearly each of my encounters with fellow seekers there are two pervading themes: disconnection & loneliness.

My vision is that I may be an inspiring example of a few simple and resonating truths. My greatest intent is that my work can inspire and move you to become unconstrained, embodied, confident, and at home in your body and mind.

Calling All Seekers & Seers!

It’s easy to dismiss any ancient text as irrelevant, especially when we consider that it’s purported author, Patanjali, is thought to have lived 400 years before Christ (or maybe never at all).

The Sutras (or “Threads” of Yoga) are also referred to as the Yoga Darshana. This word (Darshana) has an inherently deep meaning related to the word Drish, which means “to see.” Thus, by embracing the Sutras as lenses for authentically engaging in our own lives, we have the capacity to become seekers and searchers with a finer, more fulfilling purpose.

Why I love the Sutras, and why I feel they’re still relevant to our current human experience, is that they signify one of our key attitudes at Mind Tribes: Process!

When we authentically engage in the process of becoming deeply curious in the details of any moment, we tap into the essence of what it means to be mindful. Consciously navigating our moment-to-moment phenomenon repositions our attention from the product (what should or shouldn’t be) to how things could be if we allowed the space.

The Yoga Sutras call on us to engage in a process that “sees” through a different set of lenses to navigate the fields of our experience with subtle attention. Through the process of negating the distractions of our senses, particularly the over-reliance on our gross visual awareness, we might begin the process of our own inner awakening.

Sutra 1 | Book One (Samadhi Pada): Introduction to Yoga

atha yoga-anushasanam ||1||अथ योगानुशासनम् ॥१॥

Now, therefore, complete instructions regarding yoga.

The first Sutra is the equivalent of someone saying: “Okay…I’m about to get you aaallll about yoga…but first, before that….”

The “but first” is the Atha portion of the Sanskrit sentence, and it refers to some necessary events occurring prior to taking the first step toward personal growth.

Application | This Sutra highlights a tremendously useful habit we can embrace to deepen each & every learning experience. Namely, before you start any new program or endeavor: (a) choose to clear the physical field through work, and (b) clear your mental noise by resetting your energetic field.

What I absolutely LOVE about the first Sutra is that it serves as a reminder to be committed to starting everything with a clear slate.

How many times have you jumped into an activity — a call, a meeting, teaching a class, leading a presentation, etc. — without doing any “pre-work” before the work?

So, what do I mean when I say choose to “clear the physical field” through work? I mean MOVE! Commit to developing a morning ritual wherein you wake up and become physically active before you do anything else, including any mental work.

My coaching clients are often surprised when I assign “clearing tasks” that involve cleaning their cars, workspaces, homes, pantries, and other distractions that muddle their ability to literally move from space to space.

We habitually complain about all of the things that aren’t working, or aren’t working as well as we’d like, yet it’s rare that we consciously remove the physical impediments literally standing in our way.

The Yoga of Action| Do this: Clean your house AND your car. Also: Fix or repair something you’ve been avoiding. This could be a simple as getting an oil change or changing a bike tire. According to the wisdom of the first Sutra, these commitments clear the way to us to tap into the richness of what’s to come.

The second consideration is how to “clear our mental tendencies”. Well, you might not like my answer, but you’re reading this because you’re committed to growing into your biggest, baddest self…so here goes.

Clean up the messes you’ve made in your life! I’m not talking about making excuses, or blaming others for the way things turned out, or avoiding responsibilities. I’m also not talking about making what you’ve said, or not said, significant enough to break communication with your friends and family.

Here’s the thing: If you’re constantly ruminating about your son/daughter/mother/father/ex-partner/whomever you’ve cut off, you’re choosing to live an incomplete life. Period! Luckily, this is also a sign that you still care — otherwise you would be thinking about them.

The Yoga of Action| Do this: Call the people you’ve wronged, been wronged by, or those you’ve invented ridiculous stories up about. You don’t have to know what to say, or even provide answers for how things are going to turn out. In fact, simply saying, “I’m sorry…and I love you no matter what,” might be a perfect remedy in and of itself.

Here’s another way to consider the practice of “physical & energetic clearing” prior to diving into creation mode. Moving aside distracting and disempowering habits and thoughts is kind of like the practice of making your bed. Making your bed is simple, and it’s something that’s within your sphere of influence and control.

Regardless of how powerless you feel inside of your individual circumstances (i.e. the mounting bills, the never-ending To Do list, the demands of your kids or partner, or the bullshit you’re dealing with at work), you can ALWAYS control your ability to clear your physical space each morning as a repetitive ritual.

To quote Jim Rohn: “Either you run the day or the day runs you.” Why not choose to be at the source of ownership at the beginning of each day?

Ready, set, GO!



Co-Founder of Mind Tribes, a yoga-inspired movement empowering leaders to transform how they live, work and contribute. Bringing mindfulness to the workplace.

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Dan Houston

Co-Founder of Mind Tribes, a yoga-inspired movement empowering leaders to transform how they live, work and contribute. Bringing mindfulness to the workplace.