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Sutra 1.12 introduces two essential elements of yogic philosophy: abhyasa (persistent effort) and vairagya (non-attachment to the result). When practiced together, they can serve as a spiritual and practical roadmap for navigating almost every aspect of life with greater equanimity.
Like so much of Patanjali’s wisdom, the brilliance of Sutra 1.12 lies in the simplicity of its premise and the universality of its application. The basic gist: If you can be resolute in your efforts and, in equal measure, not be fixated on the outcome of those efforts, your consciousness will become less hectic, and your vrittis (mental modifications or habitual thought patterns) will still or settle.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Many of us have a tendency toward one end of the energetic spectrum. Those who are industrious and inclined toward action are sometimes too goal oriented and attached to results, while those who are more relaxed and easygoing can fall prey to lassitude and lack persistence in their efforts. Each of these extremes can lead to an agitated mind: Chasing after specific ends can produce a disturbed or restless psyche, while the inability to commit to a course of action can make for a scattered and distracted mind.
Like so many things in yoga, the solution is to find a path that is less binary, where opposites can coexist and balance each other. That’s what Sutra 1.12 is about: cultivating the ability to be steadfast and determined without focusing on the fruits of one’s labors. The outcome is not the point. It’s the quality of mind that accompanies the work that is of value—the ability to nurture a calm, curious, observant intelligence. So wherever you’re feeling challenged or stuck—maybe you’re struggling through your Chaturanga, beset by a chatty brain in meditation or Child’s Pose, or experiencing a rough patch with a loved one—this sutra invites you to take action and try again and again without attachment to the results. And to observe the effect on your consciousness when you do.