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Yoga as awareness!

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

I was always very much a seeker of full experiences and had a real thirst to understand what life was really all about. I studied Philosophy and Sociology at university to try to get some answers, ofcourse that ended up in more questions than answers!

Along with a healthy appreciation if the genius of Monty Python ofcourse! Finding like minded souls who would contemplate and debate with me over the break times Inbetween lectures. This involved a lot of sitting around, talking, laughing spending time in the student bar, more talking….. but looking back not a whole lot of doing if I’m honest.

Philosophy doesn’t give any actual tools to work with the mind, just a whole lot of ideas and contemplations, and thoughts that can send a mind to madness! I loved the existential thinkers, I felt most drawn to these although still had a sesne that something was missing. I got into Buddhism for a while, still seeking the answers and the truth. I still remember very vividly my first experience of ‘meditation’ in a buddhist class, we all sat down and got asked to quietly turn our mind inwards and observe the mind. I had really never tried this before at that point (this would have been 20 plus years back) and I started to feel like the room was spinning and even felt quite sick! This did give me the shocking realisation that my mind was not in a good state, it was like wild horses running around or a saying we have in yoga ‘the mind is like a drunken monkey bitten by a scorpion’! Totally out of control. After that dreadful experience I decided I had better do something about the state if my mind! Ammaji Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani my Guru says this is the first step towards a spiritual life, to become aware! To become aware of how unaware we are! I must thank my Buddhist friends for that experience now that shocked me into taking more serious steps to change.

So we must become aware, or our unawareness! Otherwise how can we ever know or see what it is we need to change? We can only change what we can see, otherwise it is invisible to us. Even others may see but until we also recognise what is happening we will remain in denial, most likely unless we are an unusually humble soul! Very few can digest direct feedback without taking offence about their unconcious behaviours or thought patterns.

Awareness in Yoga is talked about on 4 different levels, we talk about awareness of our body, then our mind, our emotions and finally of awareness itself. We can reflect on these on our own life, how conscious and aware are we of our own body, do we feel tensions when they first build or ‘enter’ the body, or do we wait until they become so painful and unbearable then we feel them? Do we know what we are thinking? How many layers upon layers of background dialogue is chattering on? Is there any space, peace or quietude between the internal chitta vritti - mind stuff? What about our emotions? Do we know what we feel? Do we create our feelings, do they come to us, are they feelings of a higher or lower nature? Are your feelings driving you or are you in control? Finally beyond all of these do you experience the witnessing awareness itself? Who and what is seeing, feeling and thinking?

Why is awareness one of our main teachings and so important?

Yoga is to keep expanding our awareness, far beyond our own body and life, to eventually be able to take responsibility for others and the planet, perhaps the Universe afterall ultimately we are all one. This is the teaching of Yoga that we are all connected each and every being. If the Big Bang was the start of this creation as we know it that energy is the same energy that exists today in every blade of grass, in every heartbeat and in every atom. Science tells us energy does not die, it only changes form, so here we are one form after another, from single cell ameoba evolving through reptiles, animals and human bodies lifetime after lifetime.

Lets bring this back to our own personal incarnation. If we can be more aware we can according to one of our yoga scriptures ‘avoid miseries yet to come’. If you know someone is throwing a ball towards your head you can move out of the way, this is awareness. If you do not know and do not move… well this is unawareness! Perhaps you will say, how can I know I was faciing in the other direction. Well this is actually no excuse in the discipline of Yoga. That’s right the spiritual discipline of yoga is a hard training in this sense, not that you are likely to understand that from a regular yoga class, particularly in some of its warped modern forms, but mostly they all have some valuable lesson within each style.

Swami Gitananda used to say about yoga, once you fully grasp it is ‘no option’ yoga and ignorance of the Universal laws is no excuse. He was quite a hard Guru, he did a lot of necessary ego scything! Awareness is very much the first step towards the authentic or classical yoga path. We must begin to take a good long look in the mirror - ask yourself Who is it you think you are? What is it you think your doing and why? The difficult parts are to start to uncover honestly your motivations and reasons for your actions, your speech and finally your thoughts? The Bhagavad Gita talks about selfless actions, without the desire or thought of rewards, in other words do not do things for your own gain alone. I have to laugh because when I really started to analyse this I came to the conclusion I didnt really do anything at all unless it was for some personal benefit! Even things that may have appeared otherwise, when I kept stripping down and unpeeling the layers I was definitely a selfish manipulative person, in a well disguised ‘bodysuit’! I‘m not ashamed, and neither should you be. Once awakewned to ‘ourselves’ however we should definitely start to work towards a better self! Ammaji said when the consciousness level is low, the ramifications are less. When the consciousness level is higher the results (we could say Karma but this is another vast topic not for now) of wrong doings will be much harder on the individual. Perhaps this is where the saying ignorance is bliss comes from?!

Yogacharini Deepika - Founder Yoga Satsanga Ashram

Accredited Yoga Teacher Trainer, YAP (Pro trainer) & Indian Yoga Association (IYA)

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