This post continues on the journey of the Koshas as I explore Vijnanamaya. This sheath takes us further into the subtleties of the mind. Manomaya, the previous sheath, is the gross and tangible mind that is fed through the senses. Vijnanamaya is even more intangible. To access it we need to step across the boundaries of our reactive emotions into the realm of wisdom.
Once we are able to begin witnessing our emotions and develop the neutrality of the mind, we are engaging in a process of self-reflection and self-understanding. We will have the ability to become aware of patterns and repeat responses that aren’t serving us or anyone else. Then real transformation takes place and we are moving closer towards the Yogic goal of Freedom.
Patanjali, the ancient sage who suggests path of practice in the yoga sutras, begins his doctrine by defining what yoga is.
Yogahs citta vritti nirodah
Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind
It is the ability of the mind to focus exclusively on an object without distraction. The reason we need to practice yoga is that the mind has a hard time watching anything for very long especially it’s own processes. Using meditation, postures and breath awareness brings us into the present moment and gives rise to more stillness in the mind. Moments of psychological stillness remind us that there are ways of knowing other than intellectual or habitual, where we can begin to access our inner wisdom.
In my last post I mentioned that a yoga practice offers flexibility of the body and mind. As the mind becomes more flexible it can access the depths of Vijnanamaya, our wisdom, as well as where we store our body of beliefs. The aim of yoga is to become flexible enough that we are able to have our preconceptions and biased belief systems cut short and give way to our higher truth.
We are affected by our predisposition as well what we have come into this world with. We all have these conscious and unconscious beliefs and in yoga these are seen to build up baggage – ‘mahat’ – that prevents us from fulfilling our true potential. We collect impressions from experiences in life negative and positive. They are pictures we have, the videos we play. We respond to these memories by creating habits and patterns.
Becoming aware of our ‘movies’ will beg the question “What is my truth?”, we will begin to question what we are perceiving and eventually what we are expressing. Are we acting from truth?
Albert Einstein once said,
You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.
So how do we step back and see our thoughts objectively and without attachment? How do we become connected to the stillness rather than the fluctuations of the ego-led mind?
There are different aspects of the mind for different purposes. None of the mind states should be rejected. Everything has a relevance and a place and can be seen as a messenger. As Richard Miller encourages in his iRest practices we welcome in all that is arising including our thoughts and beliefs as well as their opposites.
We all have beliefs and inner dialogues that undermine our very stability of being.
- “I’m not good enough”
- “I am a fake”
- “I am flawed”
- “I am unlovable”
- “I am ugly”
- “No one listens to me”
…. the list is endless.
The Taittirya Upanishad says that we can positively affect this sheath by building up confidence and faith – ‘sraddha’. Rather than focussing on and revisiting the ‘mahat’ which is the focus of modern day talk therapies yoga focusses on practices that will bring about change. We don’t have to work directly with one sheath in order to affect it. This is the beauty of the Pancamaya model. It’s interconnected nature allows us to work in one kosha and have positively affect another. For instance we can affect this Vijnanamaya by working with the Pranamaya kosha, the body of breath and energy. When confronted with a negative belief or thought about ourselves we can ask what kind of energy it carries. For instance a fear based belief such as “I am not good enough” or “I can’t do this” has a dark, contracted energy. Therefore we cultivate it’s opposite; expansion or lightness. We can can focus on the breath especially inhale and pause after inhale to bring about this quality. We can also use postures, chanting, visualization techniques and create positive intentions.
Leslie Kaminoff puts this beautifully in this short Video.
I want to leave you with another quote from Albert Einsten. A rabbi was keen for his wisdom and advice for how to deal with the grief he and his family were experiencing with the loss of one of his daughters in an accident.
A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself apart of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
Albert Einstein 1952.