1.37 Concentrating on serenity beyond desire or on the mind of someone who is beyond likes and dislikes.
There is deep calmness and tranquility within you all the time. That serenity is the ground of your being, the spaciousness and ease that you relax into at the end of your day once you let go of memories, worries, plans and desires. In other words, when you entangle yourself in your own ways of being, it is easy to forget that deep within, there is peace, joy, awareness and love. A simple exercise can be revealing. For one week, pay attention to the last thought you have before falling asleep. Also notice what is the first thought you have when you wake up. If there is a pattern ask yourself if that is a habit, one of your ways of being. For instance, the last thought of the day may be a reminder of a task that needs to be accomplished the following day. These last and first thoughts indicate some of the things that you are making important enough to linger in your internal space. Notice if they are conducive to your feeling integrated, joyful and successful. If your current tendency is not very helpful at this time, consider creating a new habit, making peace with yourself, your day and your life at the end of each day by recognizing that the day is complete. Take a few moments to reflect on your intentions, actions and interactions. Notice what could be improved and what you did well. Then allow yourself to be relaxed and give thanks for the day. As one last thought, can you send yourself love and acceptance? Can you also send love and acceptance out to your loved ones and gradually to friends, acquaintances, and perhaps to every living being? Similarly, you can start your day with gratitude for being alive into a new day, something that was not guaranteed. Invite yourself to participate in your life today with enthusiasm, intelligence and humility. There are similar practices from a variety of traditions that can be useful and that may resonate better with you. Try one of them for a few days and notice the effects. Do these practices contribute to creating a sense of serenity in you? Can that act as a reminder of the tranquility deep within?
When seen as a step that follows the step in the previous verse, this verse can be interpreted as the path to meditation (dhyana). In order to meditate, you first focus your mind (dharana), then you allow yourself to settle, gradually loosening the intensity of your focus, while you remain witnessing what is with no effort. In other words, the transition from concentration to meditation completes the process of shifting from doing to being. Desire is helpful to set a course of action; however, desire can also be a source of internal agitation and reactivity that muddles the deep peace within you. If the deep spaciousness within you seems out of reach, you can draw inspiration from concentrating on someone who is truly beyond likes and dislikes. Although these days it may seem like there is a scarcity of people who abide in peace, these inspirational beings are all around us. Pay attention to the people in your environment and be curious about what signs indicate to you that a person lives in peace and harmony. This search can be educational and may offer surprises as well as evidence of your ways of looking. You can use the mind-heart of that inspiring person as the focal point for you. Notice if this practice offers a good anchor to dispel distractions.
As usual, one more way of exploring the meaning of this sutra is by chanting it.
You can choose to chant it in its traditional form with some of the words coming together:
1.37 vītarāga viṣayam vā cittam
वीतराग विषयम् वा चित्तम् ॥३७॥
Another option is to chant each word in the sutra individually: