Bridging the gap between a physical practice to a spiritual practice was always my intention, but I never understood, so clearly as I do now, the fact that yoga is all about the mind. I always felt instinctively that I was doing the practice to bring myself peace of mind and that was mattered most to me – that was my goal. But imagine my delight when I read in the Buddha’s Dhammapada:
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.
Through the practice of YOGA our turbulent minds can be brought to peace.
Mind has fascinated people for centuries and nothing has affected you more during the course of this day than the state of your mind. Nothing has affected your life more than the actual mind. It is where all the obstacles are, all the limitations to why we behave in one way and not another. It’s where our ideas are held, that makes us behave and act and think in a particular way, so it is a very influential aspect of us.
As my practice deepened and my awareness was heightened I observed my thoughts more regularly. I started to notice the habitual ways that I thought, spoke and acted in the world. I began to question:is my mind a friend or our enemy? Certainly a mind that is full of fear would be a good description of mind behaving like an enemy. I observed fear as I engaged in challenging asana, or conflict with my husband or teacher trainees. When I engaged with fear in my mind the outcome was always unsatisfactory to me and others. Mind as a friend was another matter. When I stayed inward and calm my responses to the very same situations and events was completely different. And so was the outcome for all.
I see everything through and related to the state of my mind. If the mind is full of fear, I say, “I am very fearful or anxious”. If the mind is full of depressing thoughts, I say, “I am depressed”. If my mind is clear and joyful, I say, “I feel great – I feel happy”.
The yoga tradition claims that the true purpose of the mind, its actual reason for existing, is to make the inward journey and discover that which is true within. Its secondary purpose is to live an intelligent life. The mind and life are the tools we have been given to discover the truth about self. Instead of reacting by using old programmed responses, I have been practicing responding according to what is happening in the present. Seems a bit like when I press refresh on the computer. I notice the reaction surface in my mind but freeze frame it and then respond with a different attitude, different take on the situation before me. It’s exciting, revitalizing and most of all freeing.
The decision to incorporate pranayama, meditation and study of yoga philosophy – the decision to bridge the gap between a physical practice to a spiritual practice – has to be the best decision I have made in my life. Powerful, uplifting and trans-formative.
Yes, mind matters!