Truly, there is no “better” or “worse” version of You, or I–we are the Center of Consciousness. How can there be a flaw?
Be the Best Version of your “Self”
In Yoga Philosophy, a human is viewed as an expression of the Center of Consciousness. As the Center of Consciousness “moves outward” it appears to condense (for lack of a better word) and become the individual. But, the Center of Consciousness remains eternal, undiminished, unchanged.
There are various sheaths (koshas) appearing to veil the Center of Consciousness; they are like layered lampshades covering a light. At the outermost level there is the physical body; the next, more subtle, layer is the energy/breath body; the next, subtler, layer is the mental body; the mind is preceded by the wisdom body; at core is the Self–the point where Center of Consciousness initiates individuation.
Whether or not you subscribe to this philosophy, we can intuit that we are more than we appear to be. What we hold to be as our “True Nature” is a personal belief. However, the busyness of our lives causes us to misidentify with all of the actions we are doing instead of our illusive “True Nature”.
Furthermore, our addiction to moving outward–as opposed to focusing inward–causes many of us to fixate on our failures and challenges. We can become mired in a victim persona, subjecting ourselves to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Meditation is a tool which can shift us to a state of empowerment by: improving our physiological functioning, depersonalizing the thinking process, and relieving us from attachments.
When the human nervous system evolved, it bifurcated into two aspects which work like gears on a manual transmission. The sympathetic nervous system causes humans to jump into action. It triggers the “fight or flight” response via the release stimulating hormones, which includes: dilated pupils, accelerated heart rate, and increased rate of respiration. Conversely, the parasympathetic nervous system is associated with feelings of safety and wellbeing–reflect on the feeling holding a calm baby. Unfortunately, many people are primarily tapped into the sympathetic nervous system–they are reactive, anxious, and judgemental.
Most systems of meditation are practiced in a relaxing environment and incorporate techniques, such as: body scanning, diaphragmatic breathing, and focusing attention–all of which elicit a parasympathetic response. When this is stimulated, thoughts are inclined to be uplifting and positive. In fact, a recent Harvard study indicates, 8-weeks of mindfulness meditation cause the brain to grow new gray matter. This asserts you can rewire your brain into new thought patterns. Despite the catharsis of improving the quality of our thoughts, it is important to understand that we are not our thoughts.
As previously mentioned, we identify with our accomplishments and roles; however, we also identify with our thoughts. Thoughts, like the material objects of the world are “objects” we have created on the mental plane. Many people have an antagonistic relationship with their thoughts. They tend to believe that they are good when they are having positive and altruistic thoughts. They tend to judge themselves when they are having negative thoughts. All minds are creative–even Buddhist monks have thoughts of murder. However, acting on a thought is a different scenario.
Although there are benefits to positive thinking; it’s important to get distance from your thoughts. This is not an attempt to have cessation of the thinking process; rather, the goal is to become detached from the activity of the mind. In most meditation traditions, practitioners are taught to allow the mind to behave naturally–not to interfere with the thinking process. Over time, one is able to become aware of the transient nature of thoughts. Ultimately, as one becomes dispassionate about thoughts, the mind begins to relax; this is not unlike a pond settling after it is undisturbed for a while. Then one becomes aware of spaces between the thoughts. In meditation we attempt to move into those spaces–not to shut the mind down.
After one develops a regular practice they may observe that thoughts are of two sorts: neutral and colored. Neutral thoughts are benign, they do not elicit an emotional response. Colored (klishta) thoughts are shaded with attachment. Attachment is twofold: attraction and repulsion (aversion). We cling at what we are attracted to and we push against what we are repulsed by. Yet, these are two sides of the same coin–in both cases one is attached. We expend a great deal of energy trying to get more of what we want and an equal amount of energy trying to keep away what we abhor. The rationale of this behavior is happiness; but, true happiness is not determined by what is outside of us.
As a meditation practice develops, one is able to discern which thoughts are colored. A regular meditator is detached from their thoughts, they are able to uncolor them and decrease incessant craving for the the material world and it’s ephemeral pleasures. Many philosophies believe attachment is our greatest downfall; whether is desire for more accomplishments and experiences or the fear of death. Meditation does not make us apathetic; a healthy yearning for that which brings us inside and towards truth is amplified with regular practice.
Meditation is a wellspring; it allows us to set down the many false ideas and identities that burden us on a daily basis. Then, as if we hang these on a clothesline, after meditation we pick these up and they feel lighter. With meditation we begin to perceive ideas of lack are not our true nature; they are fantasies we created along the way. During meditation, we still the body, smooth the breath, quiet the mind, and steep in the silent Center of Consciousness. How can we be undeserving, unworthy or unlovable if our true nature is perennial and connected with the True Nature of everyone?
I have been pretty busy the last two weeks; I went to the Ashram for Guru Purnima (which is a little foreshadowing about my next post is the series, “How Do You Qualify Yoga“). Then, as I had been posting for the last few months. Ma Tri came to visit and it was sublime. The following post is the original I submitted to United Intentions. It will probably be edited in their version; but, it’s my first venture into being a guest blogger!
Descartes famously said, “I think therefore I am.” In this statement he is proposing that we are a collection of thoughts which coalesces into the human entity. Well, this is in stark contrast to several spiritual traditions, such as: Buddhism, New Thought, and the Himalayan Tradition (a convergence of three North Indian philosophies). These traditions believe there is one source, one power in the Universe, however, it is called by many names. For simplicity sake, in this article I will refer to it as the Center of Consciousness.
According to the aforementioned, and many other, traditions, at our truest level we are one and the same with the Center of Consciousness. However, we take on a layers of false identities. Consider a newly born baby, they do not know their name, sex, or race. All of these are identities which, over time, are bestowed on them.
The term “false identity” should not be considered a negative one. Without taking on some of these rolls we wouldn’t be able to work, have relationships, or procreate. The challenge is to see beyond what feels so real to us. The way that we set down the identifications, is through practices which take us inside: meditation, contemplation, gratitude, and intentions work to bring us through our roles towards the Center of Consciousness.
In the Himalayan Tradition, the main identities are considered to be bodies, or sheaths, which, like a lampshade veil the truth that at the Center we are indescribable pure potentiality. This tradition also views the mind as an instrument through which the Center of Consciousness experiences the world. When the mind is polished through the aforementioned practices, we see clearly who we are and the world around us. In one Buddhist tradition this is called Vipassana, clear seeing. We can see that negative thought patterns, prejudices, fear and hatred are a result of the clouded and dusty lens.
Meditation is the way we train our mind to not be swayed by its natural fluctuations. Contemplation is the practice of holding higher vibrational thoughts which point us, like a compass, towards the Center. Gratitude practices, like contemplation, remind us to focus on what is working in our lives. The more gratitude we offer the more we realize we are blessed and often have more resources available then we realize. Gratitude increases generosity. Lastly, intentions, which are synonymous with affirmative prayer, are how we point our crystalline laser mind on the whatever goal we want to accomplish.
When we declare an intention and use our adjunctive practices to keep our mind translucent, we are saying to the Universe that this is what we truly want our lives to look like. But, the “Universe” is not some force outside of us. As mentioned, we are one and the same with the Center. If we truly want something to manifest in our lives, intentions just remind us that in the world of apparent duality, we are who we are seeking at the core.
Intention setting is not to be mistaken with manipulation; as stated adjunctive practice provide clarity. If we are “tuned in” our intentions will be set for the greatest good, not for mere selfish gain. Furthermore, since there is only one Center all of ours are one and the same. When we set intentions that are positive, we raise the vibration of the planet as a whole. Setting intentions is a spiritual practice; it is an opportunity to inherit your birthright which is whatever you intend it to be!
Part 9 of “How do you Qualify Yoga?”
About a year ago, I was facilitating a workshop and met someone who is now a dear friend. Our connection was instant; he had been raised a devout Hindu and was very complementary about my ability to simplify teachings he had previously learned. We culminated our discussion with the idea that, assuming you subscribe to belief in Saṃsāra, how it took everything we had done up to that moment to even be in that workshop–to even be discussing teachings which were, at one time, only available to the chosen few.
According to Swami Rama, “…There is also the activity of grace. Grace is the impulse or the impetus of the energy to dispel darkness. There is the grace of the scriptures, from the wisdom that has passed down from others. There is the grace of the teacher, who imparts that wisdom and helps bring it to life in the student. There is the grace of God, or pure consciousness, that is alive and ever present in everyone’s life. Integral to these three graces is the grace of oneself, having the will to undertake a purposeful journey in life, to do the spiritual work of life, and to prepare oneself.”
What is the source of the impulse?
According to the mahavakyas:
- Brahma satyam jagan mithya–Brahman is real; the world is unreal
- Ekamevadvitiyambrahma–Brahman is one, without a second
- Prajnanambrahman–Brahman is the supreme knowledge
- Tat tvam asi–That is what you are
- Ayamatmabrahma–Atman and brahman are the same
- Aham brahmasmi–I am brahman
- Sarvam khalvidam brahma–All of this is brahman
If Brahman–which is an arbitrary word for the Center of Consciousness, the nameless apex, or whatever you wish to call it–and we are one and the same, the source of the impulse is from within. We heard it said before, “You are who you are seeking.” Ironically, the picture above says “to serve another”–there is no other. There is only one.
There is no need to anthropomorphize the Center, I am not suggesting “someone” is pulling strings. But, to paraphrase Ma Tri, when you done all the preparatory work, when you have gone deep enough in your meditation, eventually it is a surrender and grace that carries you the final distance.
Hence, meditation, affirmative prayer, contemplation, and gratitude–try to do some every day.
The old rule, are you ready to break it?
Convention just isn’t strong enough to make it
It collapses under the weight
of a new world order played out in faith
enlightened by a good man worthwhile
An indigo child running wild
sparkling eyes so sweet, noble to the core
No story quite like this has been written before
He speaks kindly and clearly to every man
He’s a language that everyone understands
He’ll stay with you come whatever may
Staring down the impossible, he always sees a way
So simple yet so profound is his gift
No need to struggle, he’ll lend a hand and just lift
this burden into the ether and off your shoulders
He’ll laugh with you as you grow older
A hero that wants only your favor in return
A fireman to rescue you as this world burns
A great example that equalizes the good books
A man that forces you to take a closer look
at the version of truth you’ve chosen to greet
and if you look both ways before you cross this street
you’ll surely see his gorgeous, speeding karma
blow by brilliantly and run right over your dogma