-The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
For almost a year I’ve lived in a small apartment in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, literally an avenue away from Times Square. At all hours of the day and night, the sounds of the street rise up from west 43rd street and enter my home. When I first moved to the city I used to find the noises of the city very distracting and got into the habit of sleeping with music. I compiled all of my favorite mellow songs on one epic sleep playlist and put all the songs onto my iPod. The playlist is now about 4.5 days of music (according to iTunes) and it’s become a part of my pre-sleep ritual. Every night as I start to get ready for bed, I turn on my iPod and start the playlist and soon I am fast asleep. A few months after moving to my Hell’s Kitchen apartment my speakers broke, and for one reason or another I never seemed to get around to buying new ones. The first night, I lay down in bed and had an amazingly difficult time going to sleep! I had become used to my playlist–my sweet indie-acoustic melodies putting me to sleep. But there I lay, tossing and turning as I listened to the noise of the city 4 floors below me.
This not sleeping thing continued for quite some time and was really starting to have an effect on my day-to-day life.
A few days into my sleepless nights I was doing work-study at Jivamukti Yoga downtown. I go once a week and spend three hours washing and folding yoga mats and towels in exchange for free classes at the yoga center. I’ve learned to really treasure this three-hour time-slot in my life. In my day-to-day life I teach yoga while still pursuing a performing arts career. I’ve come to realize that I waste a lot of words in my day-to-day life and really love time at work-study. For three hours I can devote myself, in almost complete silence, whole-heartedly to a pretty mundane task. The whole thing has become very meditative. It was during my time in Jivamukti’s laundry room that I had a realization, or an “ah ha moment” as my teacher would say. While cleaning the mats I heard a class finishing up. I heard the students chanting as they finished their class and was reminded of this yoga sutra. Om Vachaka Pranava, which translates roughly as “God is Om”.
From our Yoga practice we’ve learned that Om is the sound in everything; the sound that created everything. In this yoga sutra, Shri Patanjali refers to the sacred syllable Om as the Pranava, the all-pervading sound. Hearing that crowded classroom chant Om’s inspired me. I began to find the Om in everything. I sprayed the mat cleaner, Om, Om, Om. Wiped down the mat. Om. Tossed it in the dryer. Om. Om was everywhere!
I went home that night after a day full of hearing the world with new ears. I heard the city street, but it was no longer a collection of random noises preventing me from sleep… I heard God singing to me, lulling me to sleep. The whole city became my sleep playlist that night and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever slept so well in my entire life.
Through our yoga practice we are taught to see the Divine, Ishvara, in everything. Sound has always been another one of the primary ways we experience the Divine. In the Gospel of John (1:1) we read “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Today I challenge you to hear the Om in everything. Find Om in the busy New York City streets, the crowded subway cars, in your own heartbeat, and in the silence.
Do you hear what I hear?