When progressed the mind will understand all there is to be known, from the smallest particle to that which is vast and distant.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:40 – unknown translation.
Are you a global thinker or a details person? Sometime one and then the other? Are you good at analysis or better at synthesizing different models and viewpoint?
My teacher and I work well together on projects because between the two of us, we have a complete brain. She’s a global thinker. She sees the big picture, and all its interconnected parts and particulars. And me? I’m the detail monkey, the dotter of I’s and crosser of T’s. We work together well because we fill in each other’s blank spots. We complement each other’s thinking and working styles. She sees the forest; I know the taxonomy of each species of tree. Wouldn’t it be nice to have both those qualities in one brain?
This is the state of yoga. Once we’re still the fluctuations of the mind, we will have an expanded capacity to work within all the niches of the mind: analysis, synthesis, details, overview, contrast, complementary, discriminatory. One thing I have noticed as a benefit to a regular yoga practice is that I’ve broadened my thinking styles. I wouldn’t call me a ‘global’ thinker by any stretch of the imagination but I see a little bit of the forest these days, rather than just trees.
I think it’s a shame that many in North America don’t appreciate that yoga is not some exotic version of Indian aerobics. Without dismissing what the practice has done for my physical body, I appreciate the most what it’s done for my mind. I think with much greater clarity than I did a few years ago. My mental constructs are much less rigid and restrictive. I’m a long ways form “the smallest particle to that which is vast and distant” but for me the difference is discernable.
It’s also been incredibly problematic. My cope mechanism for a very long time was to completely ignore most of the data I didn’t like, rationalize the stuff that was awkward and trade on my native stubbornness and physical constitution to force my body to do the mind’s bidding. It worked well, for about 40 years. Now I’ve got internal organs that have the functionality of hunks of gristle found on your barbeque grill. It’s the price you pay for burning the candles at both ends without respite.
And while yoga might help in the long term, it’s not doing much for me immediately. I even argue it’s made things worse because now I no longer have the coping mechanisms of willful ignorance and flat out denial to keep me going. Now when I’m tired, I know how tired I am. My capacity for self-delusion has been shattered.
In the long run, this is a good thing. I was well down the path of complete physical destruction when yoga came into my life. And yes, it’s this very awareness that has motivated me to making some serious lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking, laying off the caffeine, cleaning up my diet and getting more sleep in general. Overall, it does this body good. Eventually, my body and associated physical health will stabilize. I’m completely confident of that. I’m just a little impatient about it coming along and having greater awareness of all this isn’t a great deal of comfort right now.
Thanks for reading and Namaste,