I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for the truth; and truth rewarded me. Simone de Beauvoir
Recently, someone asked me, “What brought you to the practice of yoga?” Upon reflection, and when I began yoga 20 years ago, my answer was much more superficial. It went something like this, “I’m not happy with my current physical practices (aerobics, weights, cross-training). They just seem to add more agitation and no relaxation.” Today, my answer reflects my deep-rooted search for truth — “My yoga practice enabled me to discover both personal and universal truths, which had the side benefits of increasing both my confidence and my contentment.”
Let me share a concrete example of what I mean by a personal and universal truth.
During my youth and well into midlife, my mind was a running commentary. I was either rerunning past experiences or imagining future possibilities. I knew nothing about “present moment awareness”, or that it might actually be healthy to quiet my thoughts and rest in the silence of the present. Instead, I prided myself on being a multi-tasker. In fact, most career-oriented people were hired and financially rewarded for being able to juggle multiple agendas and projects. I suspect, this is likely still the case today. Just so we are clear, a multi-tasker is not mindfully present in the moment, and neither was I. You might say back then we were all in fast pursuit. And, there we functioned until we crashed and burned (anxiety, depression, physical injury, etc.), or we just kept on going thinking we were doing the right things but not feeling happy or content.
The personal and universal truth reflected above is this — a ruminating, fast running, monkey mind does not correlate with clear seeing, calm abiding, confidence and contentment. Why is that? Because truth and wisdom are overridden when our minds are unable to be silent and our bodies are unable to be still. The proof is in the pudding — truth and wisdom are overshadowed by uneasy minds and dis-eased bodies. Furthermore, inauthentic people are not happy.
Fortunately, 20 years ago my sense of discontent reached a height where it overrode my constantly nattering monkey mind. I recognize now it was the voice of my intuition guiding me toward yoga and greater self-awareness. At the time, I had no idea a yoga practice would address what was then missing in my life. So, in spite of my deluded definition of success, my “clearer nature” brought me to a path of truth. I suspect this experience feels familiar for many of you reading this blog. Global consciousness is more readily accepting the fundamental role our intuition plays in directing our overall well-being. I would go so far as to say that without intuition, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Interestingly, it is the regret about our past mistakes and the angst about our uncertain future that keeps our minds running at top speed. Yoga teachings refer to these regrets and angst as patterns or fluctuations of the mind. As implied below in the English interpretations of the second yoga sutra, the more we are able to quiet our mind from our compulsive thinking, the closer we come to our true nature; our authentic self.
Yoga is the stilling of the patterning of consciousness. Chip Hartranft
Yoga is the control of thought waves in the mind. Prabhavananda & Isherwood
Stillness is our true nature. When we practice asana (yoga postures) and meditate, we are seeking our innermost centre (true nature; authentic self; higher self; spirit; truth/wisdom, essence, etc.). Here is where we have always been alone, but there is no loneliness. In fact, this is where all the bounty of life exists and from which it eventually manifests. Once you “taste” your essence, your self-imposed heartache and suffering disappears and is replaced by peace (truth), love (confidence) and joy (contentment). As I often say, the joy just begins to leak out of us, and we realize we are naturally happy for no reason that exists outside of us. Joy is indeed an inside job.