Plato, said, “All knowledge is self-knowledge.” Today, as I embrace my sixth decade of life, I accept quite readily the wisdom behind these words. The journey we each travel in our lifetime is none other than the road to self-discovery and self-mastery. The mystery many are attempting to unravel is how do we transform the information we acquire on our journey into useable knowledge and then unifying wisdom.
In my own experience of transformation, information often comes to me in many different forms — inspirations, relationships, books, etc. What I disregard remains unused but what catches my attention stimulates my curiosity and creativity. The key for me at this stage is my ability to know when to say yes and how to say no to the often overwhelming amount of information passing through my life every day. Our society still favours empirical evidence so information gathered from the external world through our senses is given validation. One of the ways I say no to external information overload is to not read daily newspapers, spam or junk mail. This helps me stay centred or focused on my spiritual principles. In my yoga practice, I focus attention on where in my body I feel resistance. The information I gather in this context speaks to me of blockage and imbalance.
As I bring my awareness to my body’s ‘pain’, I am able to move from its surface discomforts into its depths. This process of internalizing information is where knowledge is acquired. Understanding is gained through actual experience and static information becomes dynamic as it transforms my understanding of how past experiences, beliefs, values and attitudes formed my frame of reference. As an example, a recent piece of information was given to me to apply in my yoga practice — exhaling through the lower abdomen to soften or relax the groin muscles. In essence, this breath work created space to move deeper and more effortlessly into a number of different postures. As I move into a deeper experience or awareness of my body, I am at the same time deepening my spiritual, emotional, intellectual and communal self-awareness. As I come to understand myself holistically, I am more able to say yes to what serves me and alter my belief system to support me. It is this practice of self-discipline that ultimately transforms limiting behaviours to align with the new ‘unlimited’ beliefs. Step-by-step — or more specifically, belief-by-belief — I build the critical mass of knowledge necessary to shift into a new state of being in the world.
This new state of being is my source of wisdom, a space where awareness, knowing and sensibility are united. Here is where the integration of mind and spirit with body transcends the physical duality of an either/or into an and/all experience. My own process of integration began with mind and spirit and eventually called me to attend to my body. Although I was a competitive athlete during my 20s and 30s and continued to work out regularly throughout my 40s, I took my body for granted and willed it to perform for me rather than listened to it for its innate wisdom. From the outside I appeared to be physically fit (a hard body) while on the inside, I suffered from lower back tension and did not understand why. I was unaware that my ‘holding pattern’ or where I stored my repressed emotions and unresolved conflicts was in my hips and shoulders, which greatly impacted my spine’s flexibility and health. To discover that the body is the storehouse of unresolved pain, which without resolution will eventually emerge as disease, was new knowledge for me. Today, I wholeheartedly support the belief that the source of all physical disease is unresolved fear and anger. I had to bridge that gap of understanding that turns information and experience into knowledge and then wisdom.
In my search for wisdom, I have found no better means for listening and receiving direction than through the practice of yoga. My yoga practice reveals where in my body I need to create space for change. In other words, “Body Knows Best!” With this mantra, I have had to be patient and allow my body to signal where opening is required, what step-by-step process is necessary and how fast I can travel toward my goal. No small feat for someone who loved to accelerate learning by skipping steps. The yogic belief is that we experience everything first as bodily sensation, then as emotion and thirdly as thought. Therefore, by listening through my body (Am I holding my breath? Am I clenching my jaw? Am I tightening my muscles?), I can assess if I am responding to life’s events negatively. The body’s early warning cues allow me to assess and reframe my responses into calmer, more peaceful and loving outcomes, thereby integrating my mind and spirit in self-transformation.