Wednesday, February 8, 2012
It's All About "Me," Yoga Is Seeing the Self
After the Super Bowl football match, a TV show aired called "The Voice" in which talented singers are sought to compete for judges who go on to create teams and eventually whittle them down to what they deem to be "the voice" deserving their promotion. Well, that's the gist of it anyway. It is wonderful to hear people singing. Yet I continue to be bothered by the idea that our culture emphasizes the individual to such a degree, pressuring each person into a life-long battle to create themselves in comparison with others, without ever learning the importance of looking into the strategies and techniques of that construction project. Many people feel isolated and under siege for a good part of their lives in this endless struggle, with a few finding a path to peaceful acceptance of their own structures, and an ease of being among others who differ in some ways and are similar in so many ways.
Yoga could be taken as being all about "me" but in the sense of developing a keen level of awareness in an individual to see their own construction and understand the ebb and flow of the reality show we continuously play for ourselves. Our projections in to the next moment, as well as our carefully designed memories and dreams, begin to train us to follow our thoughts like a dog chasing a car down the road. When we attempt to hold our mind to a single point without giving way to this impulse, we begin a new intimacy with the way our mind works, and glimpse beyond the stories to a supported, open ended sense of self. A yoga practice can take a person beyond that series of stories and reactions into a way of being that Buddhists might call "peaceful abiding." I might also call it equanimity, or freedom from the daily traps I set for myself.
There are moments when the great success is simply noticing that the mind is dragging me off someplace away from the moment I am actually living. This is the dawning of awareness! When that awareness can turn my attention back to this moment, this is mindfulness! It would be an understatement to acknowledge that I spend a good bit of time on the seesaw between awareness and what I could call mind-chasing, yet even a few moments when awareness enables me to be fully engaged, mindfully aware, have changed the way I operate in the world, and respond to the circumstances and events around me.
The practice of yoga includes the asana, those physical forms that awaken the body and are so helpful in leading the mind to awaken. Asana practice is one of the "eight limbs" of yoga, the others include practices of restraints and observances that help guide our relationship to our self and to others (representing 2 of the 8 limbs), a similar practice related to cultivating awareness of the breath and its properties (one of the 8), the cultivating of awareness through mindfulness and the practices of withdrawing from the reactivity of the sensory perceptions (2 more), studying the mind through meditation (another 1), and finding just that equanimity and freedom in the process (the bliss of the 8th limb).