Struggle, Doubt, Self Criticism, and Fear?
Many of you have heard me speak about the significance of awareness in the Yoga Practice. Why is it so important to develop this particular skill of cultivating awareness?
One might suppose that by using the word, “skill,” in reference to Yoga, that we would be talking about engaging in the Yoga postures (asanas) in a skillful way; as in finding the perfect form of the body in the asana. This is not the skill that I am referring to. There is, of course, something to be said for being in the asana in a way that allows the body to be balanced, steady, open, and comfortable. However, if we focus only on the physical aspect of the Yoga Practice there is the problem that your practice will develop into something that is just that-a physical exercise routine. It will be something akin to aerobics.
The singularity of a merely physical focus tempts the ego. The ego is prone to competition; competing with yourself or comparing yourself to others. It is always important to avoid any kind of competition in Yoga because Yoga is not about doing more or going further. It is about going deeper into the internal space of who you are. It is not about trying to get somewhere else. We do enough of that in our everyday lives. Attempting to perfect the physical always has at its source an element of the ego. A Yoga Practice that brings the ego and competition into the asana can often be an extension of the preoccupations of one’s life that sneak into the practice. What we are hopefully exploring in the Yoga Practice is the awareness of egoistic self absorption and moving deeper, moving beyond those preoccupations and watching them fall away.
The essence of Yoga is developing the skill of awareness so that you can ease into the space where the everyday preoccupations of the mind and the body dissolve, thereby allowing the conscious mind to blend with the awareness of the unconscious. You then effortlessly enter into a deeper presence of the totality of being. In Yoga this beingness is called, Prakrti, your True Nature-the True Self.
Forget about being in the perfect physical form in the asana. Because, the truth is, you are already perfect. By saying this I don’t mean to imply that you are manifesting some idealized notion of perfection. Rather, what I am saying is, you are the perfect you in every individual moment of your life. This is true even when you notice the rise of the ego. When you observe the ego coming into the foreground of your internal experience you can simply let it be there but you don’t have to act on it. You can be aware that you are giving yourself over to the ego and through this observation let the desires of the ego fall away.
Many people go through their entire lives engaging in all kinds of egoistic actions without being aware of what they are doing or why they are doing it . Yet, they continue to do it. Why? Because the ego’s desire is always to assert and satisfy itself. This is ultimately a superficial activity that masks the ability you have to discover who you really are. When you pass beyond beyond the mask of the image that you are trying to project, you find the joy of being present with the True Self.
Awareness is the key that liberates you from the superficial activities that attempt to find fulfillment through pleasing the ego. You have the ability to open into the spaciousness where you can actually enjoy your inner life. Yoga is the perfect “laboratory” to experiment with this exploration of your inner life. Through this exploration you can eventually free yourself from the obstacles that cause your inner life to be in a quagmire of struggle, doubt, self criticism, fear, and the internal battle that causes so much physical distress and psychological pain.
How do you find the skill to engage in this awareness? It is actually quite easy. You simply observe the flow of thought. Observe the experience of the breath entering and leaving the body. Observe the flow of emotion. Observe the changing forms of the body. The Yoga Practice gives you the perfect opportunity to discover and refine this skill by observing, observing, observing. Observe the changing forms of your own being and eventually, you will open up to the awareness of Prakrti. This is your primal nature and the Truth of who you really are.