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November 29, 2006

Mind and Heart in Yoga

Mind and Heart in Yoga

This is part one of a two-part article. In part one, I will write about the Yogic understanding of Mind. In the next part, I will write about the Yogic understanding of Heart.

Part 1, The Mind

Yoga is a very powerful and mysterious practice. It not only can transform a person's life completely, but it has the potential to change the world as well.

However, there are many misunderstandings about the practice of Yoga. Many people have been taught that Yoga is simply a complicated form of physical exercise. And, while Yoga practice is a very effective form of exercise for the body, it is much, much more than that.

In order to begin to bring out the great power that lays hidden in this ancient practice, it is important to understand and to begin to examine some basic truths about ourselves.

One of the first questions to ask our self is, "What is Mind?"

If we examine our selves closely and carefully, we will discover that what we call our mind is very difficult to solidly define. The seat of the mind appears to be located in the brain, but it is not limited to the brain. The mind is much more subtle than that. The mind does not seem to occupy any one particular place. The mind will, in one moment, seem very large, and, in another moment, seem very small. The mind is like electricity. We can sense and feel it there, but we cannot see it with our eyes.

When you look more closely at yourself, you will notice that what you call your mind is nothing more than a collection of thoughts and emotions. In a way, emotions can be called thoughts too. What most people call emotions are nothing more than thoughts combined with desires. Mostly, these patterns of thoughts that people have go largely unnoticed. The patterns of thought operate in the background of a person's life. Yet, these patterns of thought have great power and energy. They determine who we are and who we will become. They determine if we are happy or unhappy.

The truth is, is that many of these thoughts that we carry with us are not only unnecessary, they actually keep us from discovering who we truly are. These thoughts prevent us from knowing and having access to the potential power and light that lives within each and every one of us.

What the collection of practices known as Yoga seeks to accomplish in the end is to cleanse these extra and unnecessary thoughts from our minds. The mind, in many ways, is like a mirror. When the mirror is dirty, or filled with unnecessary thoughts, one cannot get a clear reflection of one's true self.

This process of mental purification is not easy. Our minds are very strong in how they maintain their habitual patterns. Because of how we have identified with our own particular patterns of thought and emotion, they have great power and are tremendously resistant to change.

This is the reason why a serious Yoga practice requires so much commitment and dedication and regularity. Deep and real changes simply cannot be affected with a practice that is shallow and irregular.

If you do practice Yoga deeply and regularly, the rewards are fantastic and amazing. As the mind is cleansed more and more completely of the patterns of thoughts and emotions that are not really necessary to your essential well-being, the more you will discover aspects of yourself that you never knew existed. These newfound parts of yourself will astound and deeply touch you.

You will find moments of indescribable joy bubbling up from deep inside you more and more frequently. You will find moments of very insightful clarity and perception, not only about your own life, but about the lives of others as well. A deep sense of peace will begin to permeate large parts of yourself and your life. It is the kind of peace that is self-sustaining. It is the kind of peace that needs no external gratification. In short, you will begin to experience yourself as a radiantly happy and powerful person.

A mind that is filled with thoughts of fear, doubt and anxiety will surely create untold suffering for you and for others. A mind that is mostly free from habitual patterns of negative and unnecessary thoughts will be filled with joy and creativity and great beauty. You can and will be a literal "light" unto this world.

This is the choice that Yoga places in front of you.

To be continued...

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