Being alive is fascinating and richly painful. I observe my mind and body as infinitely complex, multi-sided and adaptable. Every day I add new thoughts and perceptions to my framework of reality. Through my thirteen year journey with Yoga I have made the commitment to unravel the multitude of layers that constitute my psyche in order to penetrate to something deeper- the essential Self.
Yoga teaches that the essential Self is quite different from the everyday self. While the everyday self fluctuates constantly through a barrage of thoughts, feelings and emotions, the essential Self remains unchanging.
The paradox of it all ist even though the essential Self is so different from who I know myself to be, I have to use who I am now to unmask the Self lying underneath. The triumphs (big or small) occurred for me through revelations of natural law.
The imprint of divine consciousness is locked within the heart of every thing. The blueprint for the whole is contained within every atom of creation. Within each thing a secret awaits discovery. The greatest secret is the task to know myself.
Because the unfolding of yoga happens in paradoxes, to know the little self is to know the cosmic Self. Proficiency in the world of time and space opens the door to realms beyond time and space. For example, Yoga teaches control of energy through breath. Then ultimately teaches one to go beyond the breath.
If I tried to connect straight to spirit by holding my breath as long as possible, I would pass out and wreak some havoc on my lungs. If I methodically build up my lung capacity and continually purify my thoughts, then perhaps over the course of decades, I will reach the breathless state.
One of the lessons that continues to present itself to me lately is the need to embrace where I am and cease chastising myself for where I am not. This is an endless trap resulting in the continual degradation of the present in anticipation of a better past or future.
Sometimes I imagine my doppleganger, a future, wiser self comes to me and steps into my body. I ponder what I might need to do now in order to provide a temple she is willing to stay in. When I contemplate her, I want to take care of myself.
I have encountered numerous obstacles in practicing self-care. As a child I didn’t have the insight to fathom the meaning of self-care so I learned to do good what felt good and what my conscience permitted.
The symbolism of the Bhagavad Gita teaches that once the ego “takes over” the mind-body, it takes twelve years of disciplined living to reopen the space for spirit. This is symbolized when the Pandus in the story, those that represent the soul, are banished from their own kingdom for twelve years. When they finally return home, they cannot reclaim the kingdom of the “mind-body” without a fight. The soul must overturn the rule of the ego or become a prisoner to it.
Now I have taught Yoga for twelve years and I have practiced for thirteen. When I began the study of Yoga practicing constant virtue on myself seemed impossible. I fought an uphill battle. Over the course of my initial years I struggled with meditation, depression and sloth. So many hours of so many days wasted away. I resigned myself to my automatic tendencies and shut down my mind.
In “A Complaint Free World,” the author describes four states of mental proficiency (or lack thereof):
Unconscious Incompetence: We are bad at something and we don’t even realize it, nor do we realize the negative effects that it is having on us.
Conscious Incompetence: We are now aware of a bad habit but we feel it’s rule over us and are unable to counter its strength.
Conscious Competence: We have put in a lot of work to overcome the momentum of non-virtuous habits. We still must tread lightly when in times of temptation.
Unconscious Competence: We have become masterful at the development of positive attributes. Negative habit no longer disturb us. We no longer have to try to be virtuous. It happens automatically.
At times past I felt shame to call myself a Yogi because I was so bad at it. I don’t mean bad in the sense of not being able to do the postures. I mean bad in the sense of doing the right thing, the thing that was most in alignment with my soul when no one else was looking.
These days life is different. In most major areas of my life I have moved from level two to level three: conscious incompetence to conscious competence. I still must tread very lightly in most areas of my life.
I have to exercise caution and discipline thoroughly. I have to look for the traps that my mind sets for me and pass through them with relative safely. When I fail, I must hold myself compassionately accountable. Yoga practice is paramount.