The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali written about 400 BC list nine obstacles on the path of yoga. These obstacles focus on our own role in finding solutions, rather than on changing the external obstacle itself. Whatever hinders us, we might be able to avoid it, we might be able to move it, we might be able to jump it, and sometimes we simply have to accept it. As the Yoga Sutras are often described as the ‚yoga of the mind‘, it might not come as a big surprise that some of the Patanjali’s principles link with the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is the currently favoured therapeutic approach to tackling life’s challenges.
Yoga Sutra 1.30 list the following obstacles:
To help us overcome obstacles we can find determination and motivation by identifying the benefits of doing so. In the case of perseverance for example there are several advantages: We are more likely to get results and refine our skills in the process, we can grow our confidence, build trust, demonstrate reliability, and create a positive image. At the same time, we can practice dealing with doubt, resignation and distraction, which will always try to deviate us from our path like mischievous fairies in a fairy tale. If these results matter to us, then perseverance will pay off.
Although it is tempting to do everything to avoid obstacles, there might be something positive in facing them: A hidden opportunity which you may not recognize at first sight. When one road is blocked, it gives us the freedom to explore other routes.
When life presents us with challenges, we are given the opportunity to reflect: Am I on the right path? Am I doing the right thing? How can I overcome this obstacle? Is it worth it? Can I do it on my own or do I need to reach out and get help? What can I learn in the process? If I can’t overcome this obstacle, how can I change my attitude so that I can still be happy?
Creating time and space in our minds to deal with these questions can be the first and most important first step forward. Therefore, it might help us preserve valuable energies by trying to learn from obstacles rather than wasting energies in a counter-productive attempt to avoid them all-together.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.”