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Dear Jenni – YSP I: 49

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His knowledge is no longer based on memory or inference. It is spontaneous, direct, and at both a level and intensity that is beyond the ordinary.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:49 – Desikachar translation

This knowledge is not based on memory. It is beyond that which has been attained from external sources.

Dear Jenni:

Egads, woman, we’re on the home stretch of Chapter 1. Who would have guessed we’d go this far this fast??

And it’s in these last sutras that we’re getting to the heart of the matter. Why do we go through all this daily grind of stuff – asana, pranayama, pratyahara, etc, etc? The short answer is that we do it because it works. We do it because our brains work that much better when we do this stuff.

A few columns ago, I wrote about how our brains and minds are the survival tool of our species. We don’t have sharp claws, or long pointy teeth. We don’t run so well, but by the Jiminy, we’re a pack of thinking monkeys if there ever was such a thing. The success of our species depended on our ability to think with others of our species so we could combine our efforts and resources. Without it, we’d have perished long before we migrated off the Serengeti plains.

Language, the ability to communicate with one another was instrumental in our development. Each of us is not required to reinvent the wheel. We learn from our ancestors. Right now, that’s exactly what you and I are doing. We’re studying out of an ancient text, in order to have a roadmap for our own journeys inward to Source. This kind of learning is all very rational and logical. We learn A and then we work on B – one sutra a week, so to speak.

For the record, I’d like to say that I love logic. I excelled at formal logic in university. I like reason and I like rationality. I like little inconveniences like facts and proof and evidence to show up in my transactions with the Universe. Alas, the Universe didn’t get that memo because all too often, what the Universe downloads onto my brain is sadly lacking in facts, rationality or reason. It comes in the form of ‘intuition’. I don’t know why I know it; I just know it. It drives me absolutely bats but I’ve also learned to trust it.

I have no explanation for that phenomenon that the psychologists call “intuition”. My dictionary defines it as “understanding without apparent effort, quick and ready insight seemingly independent of previous experiences or empirical knowledge.” And that’s what we’re talking about in this sutra – that clear and absolute understanding of a person, a situation, a process, that is whole, nuanced, complete and developed within a millisecond. There are no great building blocks of knowledge. It’s not like math where you had to learn the rules of adding and then you learned the rules of multiplying, which lead to the rules of division, then fractions. I have NO idea where this stuff comes from. I just know it when I feel it. For me, I feel it in the back of my neck (the old ‘spidey sense’ a-tingling) or in my hands.

Intuition is a clear and powerful tool. It does come with one major downfall. You need to be clear in your head to use it. If I let myself wander around in flights of fancy, without doing the hard and consistent work needed to clean up the Kleshas, then I’m likely to do more harm than good. I need to be able to separate true knowledge from Source from the myriad of wishful thinking, biases, attachments and aversions, all simmered to a gummy soup of ignorance and fear. Without the clarifying work of practice, ‘intuition’ can get turned into just another means of deluding ourselves.

For those of you following both sides of the conversation, Jenni’s post is here.

Thanks for reading and Namaste,



About Kate MacKay

I'm a certified Viniyoga teacher, in Fredericton, NB. I was a 9-1-1 operator and emergency services dispatcher for 22 years. Surprisingly, the two worked well together, or as I liked to put it, from the sublime to the ridiculous -- all in a day's work. I'm currently off work as a result of a stress-induced cardiac condition that's thrown a few crimps in my lifestyle. I'm not actively teaching yoga in the classroom right now and probably won't for several more months. That said, this blog is one of the forms of practice I can do and I thank you for joining me in this exploration of all things yoga.

2 responses »

  1. i have been reading the sutras again (have meant to do so for a long time), and finally getting back into it. at the same time, delving into a book called “i am a strange loop” – which tries to address the perennial question, what is this “i” that we refer to – from a seemingly more logical standpoint. (u might recall i referred to another book “GEB” by the same author). much like we are unable to explain to an alien how our interconnected neurons somehow create this us/spirit/soul/being/consciousness, i imagine intuition is also at this similar level – we have no idea why it works but it does, even though not necessarily all the time. the question for yogis is whether there is a cosmic consciousness that we connect to when we are meditating? or is this just a time when we have “defragmented” our brains and memories such that we can think clearly (and efficiently) and thus come up with better thoughts/solutions?

  2. I love the notion of “defragmentating brains” beauty! And Thank you for linking this sutra to “intuition” I relate and agree, that’s what we are talking about here. I guess my logic sens can be used to trusting the intuition, in that verry sientific way “let’s look at the results”. Because, as both of you states – it works. Result. Conclusion. Yes-Kate you know I just wrote a big conclusion to my final thesis, so I’m all about this approach 😉 love and serenity ( on me tooo)


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