“Dig One Well”

What does “dig one well” mean & more importantly, how can it help you sleep better & improve your health & well-being?

When I originally wrote this post, I’d been studying the Yoga Sūtras with a mentor teacher for 46 weeks. I learned just how much advice for living that the sūtras carried. Here’s one important sūtra I’d like to share with you.

What’s a Sūtra?

Most people aren’t familiar with the Yoga Sūtras, attributed to Patañjali. The Sūtras are THE documented curriculum of yoga practice. Yoga here means a system for living, not just the physical contortions we see on Instagram. At its core, yoga is much more about the mind & dealing with life than anything else!

Before the Sūtras, yoga was passed along from teacher to student orally. Sūtra means thread–each line in the Yoga Sūtras has multiple meanings and levels of depth that a trained teacher would use as (traditionally his) curriculum. In other words, the teacher would use the sūtra as a reminder of what to talk about. As in the case of my studies, one sūtra could take weeks to unpack!

A Sūtra That Hits Home

Without further ado, here’s the sūtra that really spoke to me: Chapter 1 Sūtra 32:


Here are some translations:

  • “If one can select an appropriate means to steady the mind and practice this, whatever the provocations, the interruptions cannot take root.” (T.K.V. Desikachar)
  • “To avoid them, [we must] commit to the practice of a single principle.” (Frans Moors)
  • “For that purpose of counteracting them practice one principle.” (Paul Harvey)
  • “The practice of concentration on a single subject [or the use of one technique] is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments.” (Sri Swami Satchidananda)

Sūtra 1.32 refers to the prior sūtra, in which life’s inevitable difficulties may become obstacles (that’s the “them” part in the third definition above). I’ll digress a little here: to know whether a difficulty has become an obstacle (in other words, that one is “stuck”), we would observe these symptoms:

  • “mental discomfort
  • negative thinking
  • the inability to be at ease in different body postures, and
  • difficulty in controlling one’s breath” (T.K.V. Desikachar)

I don’t know about you, but yeah, I’ve experienced those!

The way my teacher explained sūtra 1.32 is to “dig one well”. Said another way: focus on ONE thing. In this context it’s about a yoga practice, but it has a much wider implication that can reduce the number of obstacles in your life. For example, if you’re looking to improve your sleep, health & well-being, you might be employing a number of different strategies at once.

How this shows up in my life

Prioritizing (Even Positive) “To Do’s”

Sometimes people come to sleep & well-being coaching wanting to “fix” everything that’s wrong about their health and their habits at once. What I see happen in these cases is that the person is quite overwhelmed. I fondly recall a client who was feeling stressed out about all the things she had to do in a day. She was determined to be a healthier, brighter being. We listed out the ~15 things that she had on her daily “to do” list. (Please note that like many of us, she had a full time job that required at least 8 hours of her daily time, excluding a commute each way in Austin traffic!) No wonder she was overwhelmed! Focusing on one thing from her initial list immediately made her life much lighter & easier. Her most important health-related habit, to sleep better and improve her health & well-being, was also much more doable!

Dealing with Chronic Pain

Starting in December 2014 I started having pain in my sacrum and right hip. It was relentless, and it would change from day to day. I went on a quest to find out what was wrong with me so I could sleep better and improve my health & well-being. I was eager to get a diagnosis so I could address the cause of the problem.

My mentor at the time observed I was doing all sorts of things, and for sure, I did many of them at once. I was desperate to alleviate the chronic pain that seemed to be affecting every area of my life. I went almost 2 whole years before the diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease came. The diagnosis did make it easier to focus on treatments. And I wonder now: what if I had listened to her?

What would have happened if, instead of running around to all sorts of Western doctors and Eastern healers, I had stuck with one practice? I would have saved lots of time and money and energy for sure. Maybe I would have had more peace of mind while dealing with the pain and uncertainty. Maybe I would have had the intuition to do the test sooner. I’d likely have had better sleep, which would improve my health & overall well-being.

Growing a Successful Business

In 2017 I first started working with a business coach. She talked a lot about “being in alignment”. Her philosophy highlighted something important for me: I had not clearly defined my business model. What was the impact?

I couldn’t accurately determine whether an opportunity or idea was in my best interest. As a result, I was expending energy in too many directions. My days were highly scattered and I was driving all over the place. Clearly, I had not “dug one well” in my business. I was worn out and not feeling like I was living up to my full potential.

A related business example is the pretty famous “ONE Thing“. In this book the authors ask, “what ONE thing (could I do that) would make all other things (on my list) unnecessary?”. Sounds like digging one well to me!

Final Thoughts

When I left the corporate world and was free to set my own schedule, I didn’t focus very well at first. During my period of transition to sleep & well-being coach & entrepreneur, my new mantra became “dig one well”. It has helped me create a life of more ease and joy!

As you can tell, this particular sūtra proved relevant to many aspects of my life. It still does! Where in your life do you need to “dig one well?”

Are you ready to get serious about sleep?


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