20 April 2018
Mind and Awareness
Why, O why, do we focus on The Mind?
I have often wondered why there has been an emphasis on the 'mind' in yoga. After all, if the space of mind, manas, is filled with chitta: impressions, desires, etc, and, as spiritual aspirants, we are trying to rise above these - then why have we allowed ourselves to think that what we think is IT?
Why emphasise awareness?
And the emphasis on 'awareness'? It would be helpful for people to know that they are seldom using Ajna chakra (the third eye), in this instance. Ajna chakra awakening is a major event, and, the inner and outer vision and understandings change completely when this happens.
Having said that, there is an awareness which is still, yet knowing what is happening. I would call this watchfulness, knowingness. And, when we can keep our own judgments out of this state of being, this generally suffices for awareness. This is a tall order, for, even when we are in that state, the chitta is still predominant.
How to reduce being judgmental
What can we do about this? How can we get past the judgments? We can do this by having pauses between our thoughts, between the fluctuations of mind. There is a way to do this. By slowing down the breath. Fast, and/or, irregular breathing, seems to go hand in hand with an agitated mind. We often don't realise that our minds are agitated, until we experience the peace that arises from slower, longer, relaxed breathing.
I can still remember my first very profound experience, from so many years ago, after practising a deep breathing session which I had learnt from a visiting Guru, Dr Swami Gitananda. The profound energy, the calmness, the profound peace, the heightened awareness! And it wasn't just the deep, regulated breathing which was doing it: I learnt, in these practices from that Guru, to have pauses between the inhale and the exhale.
These pauses seem to correspond with pauses between the thoughts. And these pauses are creating longer, smoother, brain waves. In this case it was alpha. A very lovely place to be, for when the alpha brain waves are being predominant, this also corresponds with slower thought patterns. The thought patterns are from messages being relayed through the brain, by nerve impulses.
This is an excellent way to train oneself to be less judgemental, and to be able to recognise the judgements if they arise. Somehow, it's harder to be judgemental when one is in an alpha brain wave state.
Dangers of being too "aware"
There is another aspect to 'awareness': when we focus mostly on the 'mind' we become self obsessed. due to ahamkara also being part of the working parts of mind. Ahamkara being expression of one's ego, and identifying with that expression.
Unfortunately, some yoga teachers have taken this awareness business to heart, as a way to "teach" their students about how spiritual, they, as the teacher, are. When we do this, invariably our own concepts come into play. I find this very disappointing, for, if the practices are taught correctly, the awareness will come. It will come through the peace of mind that the practices (should) give. And if the breathing throughout the class, is taught correctly, the alpha brain waves will 'kick' in very quickly.
Plus, when we, as teachers, are badgering the students to 'be' a certain way, we are taking away their mana (energy of their personal power). Yoga is empowering on it's own. As teachers we do not need to control others.
When I went to live in an Ashram, the 'mind' was it! No-one was taught how to change one's state of mind with the methods mentioned above. So, with our whole being getting highly energised, and our storehouse of impressions, our feelings, our general day to day workings of the mind, being highly emphasised, all of these became quite difficult for many to deal with.
But, it seems that the emphasis on 'awareness', and remember, we are not talking about Ajna chakra here, way back in time, before Patanjali, in one of the recorded paths of Raja yoga, this awareness was not the main thing.
A spiritual secret to help with knowingness
I totally understand this. From my own spiritual journey, and especially from learning and practising deep spirituality from a Tohunga (Maori spiritual guide). There is so much more beyond what we call awareness. And there is also so much more beyond Ajna chakra.
There is another profound way to be able to be aware without being immersed in one's own thoughts, likes and dislikes: have a mooladhara chakra awakening. The 'knowing' aspect becomes separate from the contents of mind with a mooladhara awakening and a particular happening. This might happen it stages, but, with a true awakening, it definitely happens.