Mirrors, Part III
You know how there are different voices in your head that speak up at different times? I notice this most when I am trying to make a difficult decision. I weigh and consider and try to see the problem from all angles and this invites the myriad of voices forth from all corners of my head. One might be the voice of, “You tried something like this before and you faaaaaailed.” Or “Do it, do it, do mooooore!” Or “Aren’t you too busy for that?” or “Gee, that looks like a lot of effort.” Or “What would your family think of that?” or “There are so many ways that could go wrong…” or “You could just keep on doing what you are doing, right?” The voices are rarely in agreement and this can be really confusing, often leaving me unable to decide anything. But you know when a decision just feels right? When you don’t ask for the voices to chime in and you go with what your heart or your gut tells you to do? When I make space to listen, sometimes, there is that feeling-voice under there that has a different quality than the others. I feel it in my body, more than hear it in my head. (It likes to hang out right below my lower ribs.) When I listen to or feel that voice, it feels right. I can’t always explain it, but right it is.
Last weekend, I attended Chase Bossart’s workshop on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. So much of our conversation was about the habits, patterns and nature of the mind and even this feeling-voice. Mr. Bossart is a wonderful teacher and a longtime student of DKS Desikachar (Heart of Yoga—read this book!). He presented the yoga sutras in a way that was accessible and deeply relevant. In the workshop, Mr. Bossart guided us through the first of the sutras, line by line, while keeping the big picture close at hand. We learned Sanskrit prefixes and roots, mantra, meditation and breath practice and it was all great. I’ll share a slice of that Bossart-workshop goodness and how it relates to those voices.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is the core text of the Yoga Darsana (the philosophy of yoga). And check this out- the root of darsana (dar-shah-na) is drs, which means “to see,” “view,” or “mirror!!!” What do we do with a mirror? We look at ourselves. The Yoga Darsana is something that will help us to see ourselves more clearly.
Patanjali says we suffer when the mind is unsteady and unable to focus. Remember decision-making-scenario and all those voices? The mind, memory, imagination and feelings like to come in and confuse, making it very hard to see clearly what action to take. But it is possible to develop an attentive mind. Patanjali says that the practice of yoga is anything that we do to help us to direct our attention (notice, he didn’t say yoga is about nailing crow pose). Mantra (chanting), pranayama (breath practice), meditation, and asana (postures) can help with this, and so can gardening, reading, painting, and washing the dishes or anything that is done with the intention of mindful self-awareness. With practice and over a long period of time we can get much better at directing our attention. When we are able to focus the mind, we see the world through a more stable lens. A stable lens/mind means we can see more clearly. When we see more clearly, decisions are easier to make. Why are they easier to make? Because we can hear that wise, intuitive feeling-voice that is beneath all the chatter of the mind. We can hear our Self.
That special voice is different because it is You. It is the you that doesn’t change, that is perfect and wonderful and there all the time. Patanjali uses very specific words to talk about aspects of the soul, and one of them is drastuh, or “the seer.” Mr. Bossart explained that Patanjali uses this word to describe the aspect of the soul that is the foundation of perception, the facilitator of experience and the witness/observer. Remember drs, “to see”? Same root! Drastuh is this You-voice that is different from those others. Often, it speaks quite softly so it is good to learn how to listen for it.
We can use our practice of yoga to bring a pleasing focus to our lives. We learn to quiet the voices in mind, practice being in a place of awareness and listening to the messages that our soul speaks to us, sometimes through our body, sense or feeling. Yoga is about awareness, not performing a posture, and it is a practice that lets us see and know ourselves more clearly.