tude: a suffix denoting a condition or state of being.
vicissitude: abrupt or unexpected changes in one’s life
We are all subject to changes that are beyond our control. These changes that come, seemingly, out of nowhere, have a direct bearing on our moods which are temporary and on our outlook, which can be more long-term. These vicissitudes, turns or changes can be addressed with the regular use of some of the basic tools of Hatha Yoga. As we are whipped from one direction and then another, it is easy to get confused as to how we should deal with so many things coming at us from different directions.
I look at it like a tempestuous ocean torn and driven by strong winds that produce gigantic swells crashing in every direction all at once. The cosmic sailor’s dilemma is how to chart a course in such a chaotic environment. It seems that no matter which heading the sailor chooses, her craft is still beset by pounding seas that dwarf any effort to protect the occupants of the vessel. This is what the mind feels like when life gets to be just a little too much.
Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, says that “yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.” Utter stillness.
One simple way to smooth out the fluctuations or vicissitudes of our consciousness is through our awareness and use of the breath. We can use the breath to probe the mysteries of life, to listen for the answers that lie ever within us and to use our intention to solve our reactions to life’s constant vacillations.
This is a rhythmic, steady breath. It is regular, stable, uninterrupted and unremitting. This breath asks and listens with the intention of calming the violent waves that heave through our consciousness. This is breath that must be trained by our will. In our training of the breath we learn to inhabit every milliliter, and perhaps every molecule of the prana (life force) that suffuses our being to keep us alive. In this type of realization of the breath we are not just keeping these meat bodies alive, we are connecting to and opening up the divine presence secreted within us. Whether you are a religious person or an atheist, it doesn’t matter. It is not a matter of belief, but a matter of practicing the coupling, the union or the yoga of our minds with the great inexhaustible source of all that is.
The result is a fortified consistency of mind. The fluctuating, gyrating, monstrous waves that threaten to engulf us flatten out to allow us a course of steady direction. Our grief may not be instantly turned to joy, our defeats may not instantly reverse themselves to victories, but we get the backing, the support and eternal providence of infinite grace to move beyond our storms.
Life will always change. Indeed it may be defined as change. Our connection to the divine, as we cultivate it with steadfastness, will establish us on unassailable terrain.