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Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock

Urban Sadhu Exploration April 2023

PYS 1.1 atha yōga-anushasanam

Meaning: Now is the time for the teachings of yoga as I have observed — Interpretation, Austin Sanderson

"Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!" said the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as he raced against his pocket watch, his urgency catching Alice’s attention. But in today’s world, the White Rabbit’s desire to be on time feels antiquated and outdated.

Patanjali tells us that it is possible for any of us to experience yoga and realize eternal wisdom, because that wisdom is available all around us right NOW -- that is, if we are willing to calm the fluctuations of the mind and focus. In yoga, everything is more than it seems and goes deeper then you can understand on the surface. But to discover it, you have to be willing to be present, right “NOW,” and “NOW” means being on time.

With authority, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras begins with the Sanskrit word atha (”now”). Patanjali’s “wisdom teachings” begin with a direct instruction about time management. Atha is an auspicious word, but it also expresses urgency. It calls our attention to the fact that the teachings of yoga are of great importance, and “now” does not mean “in a few minutes,” “sorry it’s taking me so long,” “I’ll be there soon,” or “can you wait for me.” Patanjali, in the first word of the instructions, is giving the deep profound teaching of “Be on time, don’t be late!”

Chronic lateness is extremely prevalent in today’s culture. People make up all kinds of excuses to justify their lateness. It is true that “among people with ADHD – more of them have [time management issues] than not,” says Mary V. Solanto, PhD, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine in Long Island. In a Washington Post article from 2021, she explains that those with ADHD who don’t struggle with chronic lateness typically did in the past but “were able to come up with ways to overcome it. “It’s a very big problem: people have been fired because they’re chronically late. It has significant consequences.” And she adds, “They tend to fly by the seat of their pants and do things spontaneously, and they don’t plan for many things.”

But according to a 2016 study, only 2.8 percent of adults worldwide suffer from ADHD, and in the US the number of adults clinically diagnosed with ADHD is small. One 2019 study estimated that US adults with ADHD may only be 0.96 percent! So how do we explain the chronic lateness of people in today’s current culture? Outside of people with ADHD, it becomes apparent that the small ego personality is more likely than not the overall culprit, and yoga is all about overcoming the small ego-driven personality.

There are different types of small ego personalities, such as:

· The perfectionist, who might fuss over hair, clothing, and little details that keep them from being on time.

· The crisis-maker, who needs a problem and adrenaline rush to get going.

· The daydreamer, who wastes time fantasizing about accomplishments instead of accomplishing things.

· The pleaser, who says “yes” to everyone and has taken on too much.

· The anarchist, who rebels against “the oppressive system and its expectations” of them.

· The passive aggressive, who needs to feel “in charge” at all times but plays the victim of time and any external demands.

· The deflector, who blames their lateness on everything else but themselves.

· The free and easy, who is overly casual with all of life’s details.

· The spiritual flake, who believes “time is a trap of the unenlightened” and avoids committing to punctuality for spiritual reasons.

· The narcissist, who believes that being late makes them the center of attention.

· The jerk, who is just selfish and doesn’t give a damn.

As yogis, we understand that karmically there are consequences to chronic lateness, and in the end we have to pay for our karma (action). If we create negative karma we will get negative results; if we create positive karma we get positive results.

In truth, the cause of the problem is more complex than the solution. Coming up with clever ways to be in the NOW is the first step toward solving the problem. Create self-imposed deadlines and stick to them. Tapas (“self-discipline”) is one of the five Niyamas (observations) of Patanjali’s system. Asteya (“non-stealing”) is one of Patanjali’s five Yamas (restrictions). Start to see your lateness as a form of stealing, of taking what is not yours. Stealing others’ time is also energetically himsa (“a violation”), and as yogis we want to live a life of ahimsa, “non-violation.” By applying the yoga sadhanas that Patanjali offers, all yogis can be on time and in the atha, NOW.

Austin Sanderson – Urban Sadhu


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