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All the Rules: Whose rules? Your rules? My rules…

I teach Isha Hatha Yoga and have completed many programs with Sadhguru. Ultimately, I am everything and everything is me. Intellectually this is simple and I got it. Despite this knowledge, when stupid stuff happens I get really mad when people said “it’s all you.” It feels so blamey. So fault-finding. It is all me, yet I didn’t get how, since I saw no direct cause and effect. How could I be doing this to myself when people I had never met were creating situations that made my life difficult.

In so many ways Sadhguru has told us the same thing in different ways. “All the rules are my rules.” This simple concept from Inner Engineering is what allows you to “become the master of your own destiny” because when you “do the right things, right things will happen to you.” Quote after quote points us in the same direction.

So I took a deep dive into what this means in my life. When I am holding back or not doing something, or difficult situations arise I look for the “rule” that I have invented that keeps me from mastering my destiny. Lots of them are silly and easy to drop because they are nonsensical. I can look at them and say to myself “hmmm, that rule isn’t working for me, let’s change it!” Then poof! I’ve mastered that bit. Others are stickier and are deeply woven into the software of my system and the fabric of my being. A series of subroutines that play, and act like a virus, overriding unexpected areas of my life and creating a wave of nonsense. My own personal circus.

Last week I was at an event for Isha Hatha Yoga teachers where we receive continuing education, new practices, renew our Sadhana and spend time with each other. The realization of how I was creating this circus played out in front of me in the silence and stillness of my Sadhana that week. “All the rules are my rules.” I discovered the rule that “rules” them all. Well, I guess it smacked me in the face really. This is the one that holds me back, that I consciously, unconsciously, compulsively follow. The root of all the drama and the circus that holds me back. That rule is “don’t be more successful or better than.” The tricky part is the end bit.

My parents reinforced the rule. Don’t be better than your brother, he’s older than you, it upsets him. I spoke before he did. He did try to kill me with a hammer once when I was an infant, simply for existing. He didn’t handle being a sibling well. Learning from this, the parents then kept me out of a 3rd / 4th grade split class, afraid I would leap ahead of my brother. The rule also got enforced with money and support. If I got too good, money, transportation or other support would disappear. Flute lessons were one such situation. The neighbor, who was my instructor, said I had learned all she could teach and that I would need a more skilled instructor. Poof, no more money. You aren’t allowed to get any better. Subroutine ends successfully.

So while the rule began simply with family and siblings it then began to play out in other ways. I generalized, just to be safe. In eighth grade, I discovered I was pretty good at basketball. So good that I was beating one of the jocks in a 1-1 game in gym class. She was getting steamed (I was a mildly chubby nerd with glasses, not a jock). Play subroutine: Jock trips me, trashing my knee so badly that I wasn’t able to join the basketball team or even play much again, ever (Baker cyst, torn ligaments and cartilage, no surgery or medical care). Subroutine successfully executed - no more basketball, no possibility of being better than.

Flash forward and I could make a huge list of all the ways that I played this subroutine and followed what is now my rule, to a T. Any time I was getting too successful I would find a way to sabotage that success. If I dared brave my way into being successful (it’s surprising at how successful I have been, given this rule) there were consequences. My boyfriend stopped playing paddle ball with me when I started beating him. My first husband left me when I started making more money than him. Again the list of consequences goes on.

Sometimes the subroutine would manifest as abject terror. I thought that the terror was about the thing that I was attempting. It was really about succeeding. If I did the thing I would be successful and success has consequences. So I would mess up - out of what is now a habit. Compulsive responses to ensure I don’t break the rule.

I have found other ways such as weight gain, injuries, time killers, and more. I have even managed to include total strangers in my circus: bad tenants, neighbors spraying herbicides without a permit (creating vague symptoms for nearly a decade, then making me seriously ill for more than a year). An abusive ex-husband that created chaos and uncertainty. A move to California enlisted the trees. It took three tries but one finally fell on my car! No car, no transportation, no possibility of success. So much circus I created in service of this one rule!

And just to ensure that I get this message: “all the rules are my rules” this was the topic of my book club. We are exploring Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras by reading one translation (How to Know God, translation by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood) along with three others, in pursuit of deeper understanding. Here’s what Patanjali has to say in How to Know God, Chapter 2, Aphorism 8. “Aversion is that which dwells upon pain.” The explanation given:

“We are tied to what we hate or fear. That is why, in our lives, the same problem, the same danger or difficulty, will present itself over and over again in various aspects, as long as we continue to resist or run away from it instead of examining and solving it.”

Seekers all understand this, but until you find The Rule, the problem, danger, or difficulty will run on repeat until you get it. All my attempts at examining the problem at face value failed. It wasn’t about the situation; it wasn’t about that person at all. It was that I, in my karmic rinse and repeat cycle, employed them. it was that they were there in service of my staying to to my primary rule: don’t be better than or more successful than.

Aphorism 9 in Chapter 2 states: “This desire to cling to life is inherent both in the ignorant and in the learned. This is because the mind retains impressions of the death experience from many previous incarnations.” This fact also causes us to cycle and recycle, but we also have a choice. If we recognize our responsibility, it is us who have created our present predicament and only we who can change it. Its tendencies from previous lives or incarnations endlessly produce the same outcomes.

There is hope, though, in Aphorism 10: “When these obstacles have been reduced to a vestigial form, they can be destroyed by resolving the mind back into its primal cause.” and in Aphorism 11: “In their fully developed form, they can be overcome through meditation.” The Science of Yoga offers tools and technology to help you along the way. After all, once you have realized that the circus is just that, it’s time for Yoga which takes us back to Chapter 1, Aphorism 1: “And Now Yoga.”

Similarly, in his book about Karma, Sadhguru reminds us of this. He shares an oft-used phrase in Indian culture: “Your Life, Your Karma.” He goes on to say:

“If you really see that it is your own karma which is playing havoc with your life, what is the point in cursing the man who saws off your limbs and acquiring more karma? If you do not see this, or if you understand it only on the surface, if it is not a truth for you, you will say it is karma only when it is convenient for you – otherwise, you will say it is someone else’s fault. Everything that you are today, the good and the bad, is actually your own responsibility and your own karma. Then what is the point in complaining if something is not convenient? For a few things, you may be willing to say it is your karma, but what about the remaining things?
If there is acceptance, anything is possible – this is the best way. But when people are not alert enough to accept every moment, then you have to fix substitutes. Tolerance is a poor substitute for acceptance, but you need at least that.”

Now that I understand that this is The Rule that rules me and I accept that fact, I can start bringing success back into my life. I can recognize all the circus for what it is, all the terror, anxiety, and other nonsense for what it is and learn laugh in the face of those things. I find that laughter takes the power out of those things so that they no longer control me. Instead of wondering why I can’t be successful in my current circumstances, I can take steps to become successful despite any circumstance. That is the way of the Yogi, not influenced by external circumstances.

Dearest Sadhguru even provides us with tools, Sadhana for such a situation. For this he gives us Chit Shakti meditations to help us rewrite and engineer our own software. In this case Chit Shakti for Success, a guided meditation for becoming “the master of your own destiny,” You can download it here: Chit Shakti for Success.

Chit Shakti

"Once your thought, emotion and energies are organised, your very body will also get organised. Once all these four are organised in one direction, your ability to create and manifest what you want is phenomenal." - Sadhguru

Learn more


How to know God, translation by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood


Inner Engineering -


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