Avoiding Future Misery

Heyam duhkham anagatam
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 2:16

Heyam Duhkham AnagatamWe cannot avoid the pains of the past, for they have already come to pass. We cannot avoid the pains of the present, for they are already in progress. The only pain that we can avoid, is that which has yet to come. —Rama Jyoti Vernon

In this moment, what are the seeds that you are planting for the future?  Consider the position that you are sitting in, perhaps hunched over your desk. Maybe it is late a night and you are reading this on your cell phone. Perhaps you are not using your reading glasses. The commentaries on the Yoga Sutras say, “the Yogin is one who is a sensitive as an eyeball.” Meaning, in every moment we become aware of the possibilities for future suffering.

All actions have a reactions. In every moment, we are reaping the seeds we have sown and planting new seeds. We cannot change what has already occurred. We can learn from the pains of the past. For instance, burning yourself on the stove has already occurred and you have suffered the misery of searing flesh. But, you know to be a little more careful of the flame and so you will not place your hand on the stove again. This is a future misery that is avoided, by awareness of a past misery.

The example of a burning yourself is simple to understand. What about the more subtle seeds that keep on germinating? Let’s take posture as an example. It is very likely that you are sitting in a slouched position as you read this. If you are not sure, take a moment to check in and see if your back is straight, if you are taking deep breaths, and if the shoulders are rounded. Computer posture has led you to experience misery in the past and misery in the present. This comes in the form of headaches, eye strain, shoulder pain, wrist pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, tiredness, sleepiness, excess consumption of carbohydrates, shallow breathing, jaw pain, neck pain, etc. But, have you learned from this misery? Has it changed your posture at the desk? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. This is what is meant by this kernel of wisdom. Let us cultivate the awareness of the present moment so as to avoid future misery.