“The existence of all objects of perception and their appearance is independent of the needs of the individual perceiver. They exist without individual reference to cater for the different needs of different individuals.”
— T.K.V. Desikachar
This Yoga Sutra defines what we all intuitively know, and it may seem obvious at first. An example would be: whenever you leave your kitchen, and you are no longer looking at or thinking of your kitchen table, the table does in fact, still exist.
And yet, even though this is a seemingly obvious statement, how many times have you been surprised by your niece’s/nephew’s seemingly “sudden” growth spurt since you last saw them? Have you ever been taken aback by the choice of your ex-boyfriend’s/ex-girlfriend’s new partner? Have you ever visited an old workplace and discovered they in fact actually are doing fine without you, despite how much they relied on you to keep the place running?
These kinds of surprises are usually easy to absorb, and don’t throw us mentally off-track too much, but they do highlight a fact common to all of us that is not as easy to absorb: the world continues to move and change without our involvement. Inevitably, in our fast-paced lives this is something that we frequently forget. And at some point we experience the rather negative feeling of having been “left behind” or “left out of the loop,” whether it be feeling “old and out of touch,” or “not needed,” or “useless” or “unimportant.”
Many surprises we experience in life can unsettle us: we are laid-off from a job, a relationship suddenly ends, some part of our home breaks and needs repair, etc. These types of surprises are niggling reminders that we cannot control our environment and/or situation as much as we would like. We cannot protect ourselves 100% from “bad” things happening to us. If we can just hold the words of wisdom from Yoga Sutra 2.22 as the backdrop for whenever we look out at the world, we can mitigate these feelings of helplessness and/or loneliness that sometimes arise. If we can remember during those times of unpleasant surprises that we in fact, were never completely in control of our destiny even when “good” luck had come our way, then we won’t be left with feelings such as guilt or shame for not having been able to predict what was about to happen in the hopes of averting bad luck. The universe does not revolve around our actions and us. It keeps running even when we aren’t paying attention. And this can be good news for us! For we don’t need guilt and/or shame to make traumatic events that happen to us more disruptive than they already are. We may be able to choose our actions, but we cannot choose the actions of others or of the elements, especially since they keep changing and shifting when we aren’t able to look.
– Michelle Dortignac