Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Truth through the Paradoxical Lens of Yoga

Impermanence is obvious. It's dark and then it's light. I'm sleeping and then I'm awake. This pear is not ripe and then it is. I'm breathing in and then breathing out. My eyes are watering in the wind. The water is boiling and transforming into steam. Oh, you can fill in a thousand immediacies that were different a minute ago, or two weeks ago or will be shifted by the time you read the next word. Blink. Blink.

In all of this intermittent reality what is truth?

Is truth drowned and lost in the sea of impermanence? Is truth substantiated only by the moment, an ever shifting, yet layered history, like the earth? A reality, when examined, that reveals conditions from yesterday, last year and millions of years ago? Doesn't what you find depend upon where you dig; and depends upon how wide a site or context you examine with what skills?

So it seems the truth is situational, and personal, yet constant and universal. Surely this is paradoxical.  I apply my pre-existing assumptions, my learned expertise, my experiential practices to what is happening in this moment. If I cultivate an ability to be aware beyond the reactive, by repeating this practice, applying my attention in many different contexts,  I can begin to perceive  these personal elements: my pre-existing assumptions, my learned expertise, my experiential practices. Patterns of reactivity or my very own personalized systems of layering observations and experiences begin to separate out from the original sources, or instigations. Over time I can see how even these internal structures of mine have changed. 

In this mash up of interpretation and experience, how do we know when something is true or not true? I remember as a teenager,  my history class was given several different first-hand accounts of one historical event and we were asked to attempt to detail what actually happened from putting these differing points of view together. Of course, this was interesting and challenging, but even with the same multiplicity of accounts, each of us put together a different view of those events, as filtered through our own pre-existing interpretive structures.

Is it any wonder that in our current political context, reality is being played like a game of telephone where each person whispers to the next what they thought they heard, interpreted through their own pre-existing patterns of vocabulary, reactiveness, contexts etc.

Can yoga help us hear ourselves, each other, and the truth? I think so. Once we accept that we are each a complex mechanism of interpretation for each grain of truth, it's possible to see how, when seen from another vantage point of experience or understanding, the same object looks different. The object itself is not frozen in its form either, being a continuously transitioning little bit of impermanence itself! So there is lots of space in each moment for compassionate embrace of confusion, tolerant amusement at the desperate gripping for the one-true-reality that we all feel at one moment or another, and application of a series of observational mechanisms for helping us find our own foundation and stay open minded in that moment.

Paradox is welcome in my view through the practice of yoga. We can be physically releasing into the elemental force of gravity through our feet, while at the same time feel an uprising energy throughout the body. With practice, it possible to embrace both/and as a way of seeking truth too.