Path to the true Self - part two
My last blog post I called The Path to the True Self (part one) which leads to the conclusion that there must be a part two. Which is correct! And here it is…
In the last blog I spoke about the cage that we all find ourselves in and how it is the creator of our suffering. So I’d like to elaborate on that. The question being, if we are all in a cage then how did we get in there? This can be explained by examining our childhood experiences in our family of origin. Basically we are each born into a family and environment that leads to having a certain world view. For example, if your father supported a certain football team, it is likely that you will also follow them. If your mother displayed certain traumatic behaviour growing up, you may be prone to thinking that all women are this way and therefore fear it in your adult relationships. If your culture says certain beliefs are right and other cultural beliefs are wrong, then in most circumstances you’ll lean in that direction too.
I’ve written about this in a previous blog but it’s important to revisit. Why this happens is that before the age of six we haven’t developed the capacity to be discerning. We are just a sponge and we are taught how the world is by the people around us. So from that age onwards we are running off programs that were plugged into us at time before we had a capacity to disagree with them. How many six years olds do you know go around saying, “I hear what you’re saying but it really doesn’t align with my truth”. At that age we don’t know what truth is! We are all just trying to survive. And to survive means to fit in, to not be excluded or exiled by the people feeding us. Most importantly, it means to be loved. The best way to achieve this is to fall in with the thinking and ways of your tribe.
Because we are not taught that there is any other possibility, we believe we are the program. This is the prime illusion. We are not told that there is a vastness beyond our individual thoughts that will bring us freedom and an easing of our pain. In fact, we align our sense of self so strongly to what we believe and think, that we defend it with everything we’ve got. We will lose relationships over it, we will go to war over it, and some of us will be willing to die for it. An example being the war between religions that has battle cries of, “My loving God is better than your loving God, and if you don’t believe in my loving God, then I’m going to kill you!”
This kind of impassioned violence can seem crazy if we are not entrenched in that kind of programming. We can arrogantly look upon such individuals and communities with an air of detachment claiming that we are nothing like that. But we are! We are exactly like that. We just have different wiring. Which means we are equally less free. Do you really think if you were brought up in a family or culture that says acts of terrorism are fundamentally a good thing and to do so is to save the world, that you wouldn’t also subscribe to that on some level? We are heavily entrenched in our ways and views from a young age and we are all moving through the world trying to create happiness in the best way we know how (aka how we’ve been taught).
Ironically we walk around in our cage truly believing ourselves to be free. And we believe our thoughts to be fact. But we now know through the study of the human mind that our behaviour is about ninety-five percent unconscious. That means five percent of our day is spent in what we could consider free-thinking and free-being. However, the ancient yogis speak of it as being more like ninety-eight percent unconscious. What. The. Fuck? Two percent of freedom a day? If you think it sounds crazy then you’d be right. It does sound crazy. But if we follow the 'programming-before-the-age-of-six' aspect of our development it makes complete sense. We have been crafted and guided into a particular world view, imbued with likes and dislikes, which govern everything we are and everything we do. It’s all pulled together masterfully and labelled as our self-image or our identity.
Yoga says, boy does that identity business need to be sorted out! (I’m paraphrasing). Our world gives so much emphasis and importance to having a strong identity and ‘good self-image’. But good self-image or a bad self-image… it’s still just an image. It’s just an idea and not who we are in essence. It's like looking in the mirror and believing that the reflection we see is the real us.
This is problematic because when we are operating from our images and ideas we can actually believe there is a world happening outside of us that we are perceiving with absolutely correctness. But in fact, we cannot experience the world outside of our own being. By definition nothing can be known outside of our own awareness. Anything we experience is experienced within us, and through the filter of our programming and perceptions. So if we stay bound to this programming, without taking steps to move beyond it, how will we ever see the actual truth of anything?
A well-known example to help us with this concept is the mystical question, “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no-one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” To which the answer would be a resounding no. Sound depends on the special sensory organ of hearing for it to ever exist. No ears, no sound. There is no world outside of us that is separate from our awareness. Therefore we are all walking around in our own little worlds thinking we have the correct view. Thinking that we know. And we don’t.
If your mind is blown right now, that’s good! That’s the beginning of dismantling the cage. Yoga, in its philosophy and practice, is a path that helps us cultivate a much deeper level of awareness that can help us to squeeze a few limbs out from between the bars and eventually, through practice and persistence, our whole being. In the yogic tradition we strengthen the buddhi mind; our power of discernment. To do so requires a lot of discipline, patience and practice. And the practitioner will have periods of feeling incredibly disturbed and destabilised as their misaligned world falls apart.
This is quite often why many of us won’t do this work. How often have you committed to doing a meditation practice each day and then watch it fall by the wayside? This is because the cage can be pretty compelling, and it can feel very safe. The cage allows us to be self righteous. It allows us to spiritually bypass our issues and blame the other people in our lives. The cage allows us to feel justified with our thoughts and actions. Even if that means to be forever in pain.
Unless we develop practices to start dissolving the dominance of the mind, and bravely step into them, things will always be as they have been. Until we energetically strengthen our vessel through asana and pranayama, and calm the dominance of the thinking mind through meditation, the pull of the cage will always win.
Through yoga and the cultivation of a strong buddhi, which can also be defined as inner wisdom, we can start to question what we think and why we think it. And whether that thought is even useful or just a big ol’ pain in the butt like a lot of thoughts are. Discernment allows us to get comfortable with sitting in the not-knowing and it takes us to a place of surrender and faith. It helps us lose our rigidity that continually hurts ourselves and others. Simply put, it brings us to yoga.
We can so easily be seduced by the idea that yoga is about punching out some sweaty vinyasa and mastering the poses (if only it was a that easy!). But yoga is actually a state of being. It’s a state of absolute union and equanimity. As soon as we say I’m right and you are wrong, we are out of yoga. Good, bad, right, wrong. They are all made up mental constructs. Things just ARE. The intelligence of the universe is expressing itself in all the different ways that are possible. And that’s it.
(This is a huge concept to embody and understand and I will be covering it fully in part three)
If you are reading this and thinking you may not be very good at this kind of yoga… welcome to the human race! As much as I am a yogini, and I study and teach this practice, I can spend large amounts of time thinking and displaying actions that are way off course from yoga. But this is why we do the work. This is the human journey. As shitty and as awe-inspiring as the whole thing can be.
SO, do your practice. It’s a science and it works. Then stay open. Notice when your ego is freaking out because the ego is the keeper of the key to your cage. Then remember to breathe. See if you can soften the rigidity around your world view because to put it quite frankly, your view is not right. Neither is mine. Unless we are enlightened beings none of us are seeing things as they truly are. None of us have ultimate clarity.
And lastly, know that I am right there with you, in the practice, and in the work. Because as Rumi so potently said….
We are all walking each other home.
Yours in Yoga,