Such contemplation intuitively grasps subtle objects in their reality and beyond.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:44– Bouanchaud translation
Bouanchaud starts off his commentary on this sutra with the question “Am I more at home exploring concrete realities or metaphysical concepts? ”
Put me firmly in the category of “I want to weigh it, measure it and catalogue it before I believe It.”, so the entire realm of metaphysics has the slightest flavor of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to my sensibilities. Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy most likely to cause my brain to bleed. Frankly, I suspect I avoid the subject because I’m not smart enough to figure it all out nor am I engaged enough to give a damn. What are the origins of the universe? What is its first cause? Are our actions casually connected by an unbroken chain of previous events or are we agents of free will? Do things change at all or is change continuous? What is the meaning of identity?
Just writing it down is enough to make blood vessels in my grey matter quiver and threaten to rupture under the strain of it all. Consequently, I have a lot of trouble wrapping my brain and my imagination around the “subtle” objects. How do I perceive that which I can’t see, can’t hear, can’t taste, and can’t feel? My problem is when I have a potential encounter with one of these ‘subtle objects’, I strongly suspect it’s an overactive imagination at work as opposed to anything with any real substance to it.
Take for example my recent forays into Dr David Berceli’s Trauma Release Exercises. For the rest of you, Dr Berceli has put together a series of asanas that engage the psoas muscle and the anterior spinal muscles in order to cause them to tremour. This tremouring releases tension in the muscle tissue and reduces overall levels of stress in people. It’s used largely for post-traumatic stress disorder treatments. And assume that this paragraph is the world’s greatest short shrift to Dr Berceli’s work – it’s a back of the napkin sketch at best.
Now, getting back to topic, there can be a lot of emotional release for a person doing these exercises. Most yoga practitioners are probably familiar with the body’s capacity to release emotional memory. I cry every time I go into the bow position (Dhanurasana). Why? No flipping idea. I just do. The same sorts of things happen during these TRE exercises. In fact, I distinctly recall one practice session with the TRE exercise when I had this great sense of opening through my mid-chest and I had a great sense of compassion for all who were around me. I also visualize (through closed eyes) a beautiful shimmering translucent apple green light that filled my visual field. Opening of the heart chakra? Maybe. That would be one explanation that would fit within a yoga friendly model of reality.
My questions to myself are plentiful. While I can report the sensations that I had at the time (green colour, openness in the chest, emotional outpouring of compassion), I doubt myself when I start labeling that experience. First of all, I don’t know if chakras even exist. Their noted lack of any kind of physical concrete reality puts them a bit into the category of the Tooth Fairy for me.
I also had to study the theory of the chakra model when I was doing my yoga teacher’s training. I have an intellectual model inside my head of what the chakras are and what they look like and what colours are associated with them. My question is when I had this experience of the ‘heart chakra opening’, did it exist in and of itself or was it a product of my prior knowledge of the chakra model? In short, did I imagine it? Did I filter my interpretation of the sensations of my body through the construct of chakra theory? If I never heard of chakras before, would I have had the same sensations? The same interpretation?
All of this is very curious to me and at the same time makes my head hurt because there are no answers. I’m a statistical universe where n=1. There is no control group. There are no random selection protocols.
Which brings me to the next question: why do I doubt my own experience and sensations? Excellent question but one based on experience. After 46 years of stumbling around on this planet, I’ve see a lot of people delude themselves. I’ve spent a lot of time living under the spell of illusion. Humans have an uncanny knack of being able to construct their reality to a great extent. Depending on how I chose to interpret an event has a huge impact on how I perceive it. If someone I like makes a foolish decision, that’s unfortunate because she’s only human. If the exact same decision is made by someone I don’t like, that just proves they’re an idiot.
See what I mean? The metaphysics stuff always gives me indigestion. What is the nature of reality? Did my heart chakra open or not? I’m reminded of that scene in the opening of A Christmas Carol when Scrooge meets the ghost of Jacob Marley.
‘You don’t believe in me,’ observed the Ghost.
‘I don’t,’ said Scrooge.
‘What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Scrooge.
‘Why do you doubt your senses?’
‘Because,’ said Scrooge, ‘a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!’
Like Scrooge, I doubt my senses because I appreciate the role imagination and wishful thinking play in our construction of reality. So in truth, these “subtle objects” that Bouanchaud speaks of make my head ache. What is real and what is imagination? How much of perception is a mental construct? These are all questions for which I have no answers.
Thanks for reading and Namaste,