Yoga is for everyone!
We are continuing a series of discussions about the many dimensions of a human being. We have talked about the physical body, the Ana Maya, the Emotional dimension, Prana Maya, and are now moving on to the Mano Maya - the Mental body, our Mind. The next blog will be devoted to the social/cultural conditioning - Vijnana Maya, and the series will end with the Ananda Maya, the Bliss body, or our spiritual realm.
As was already mentioned before in this series, all the dimensions are inter-dependent, inter-linked, they do not exist separately from one another, and a deficiency in one will affect all the others, but the good news is that whenever you start making improvements in one of these areas, all the others benefit as well. And it just so happens that our Mental dimension is usually the resource that I, as a Yoga Therapist, can count on to be the strongest.
If you are reading this it already means that your mental resource is a well-tapped one, because self-study, or Svadyaya, is a powerful tool that can be used to bring positive change to all the other areas of your being. Collecting information, sorting it, analyzing it, making sense and order out of it, applying generalities to specifics - all of that is the domain of the Mental resource, and regardless of the level of education and the number of degrees, most people if they are not suffering from a mental illness, are capable of some degree of reasoning and self-reflection.
This is the advantage we have over plants and animals - this ability to think, reason and learn. When this ability is well developed, we can change our environment to suit us better, we can protect ourselves from unfavorable conditions, and we can adapt and evolve. This has made us the dominant species on this planet.
In the next blog we will tie this into the various social programming, which is akin to instincts in the ways it compels us to do certain things and react in certain ways, have certain expectations and such, but the Mind is where we carve out our own individual space apart from social conditioning and therefore achieve a certain degree of autonomy. We can truly own this resource!
Free choice is a powerful resource that can present its own set of challenges. If this resource is underdeveloped, if we have not spent much time reflecting on why we do things and is there a better way, then we are denying ourselves the awesome power of the mind to shape our reality.
Social and cultural programming takes a long time to change, sometimes several generations, but a change in one's mindset can happen almost instantaneously if the mind is fit, agile, and open to such change. Personal transformation in the Mano Maya can happen so fast and have such profound effect on the way we feel (Prana Maya) and even our body through posture (Ana Maya), that this would be the resource to turn to when the others are hard to tap into.
The human psyche is built around this synergy of adaptation and stress. Stress is tension, pressure, overload of the system that puts too much strain on the organism. Too much stress can lead to a lot of harm (a little bit of stress, to which you can adapt, however, has been proven beneficial). There are two ways to adapt to stress - change the situation, or change oneself. Only then one can find a sense of balance once again.
It can be difficult or impossible to change the situation, so changing oneself is a more reliable path towards that balance. And the Mind is, in a way, an evolutionary adaptation, to help human beings have an edge over those plants and animals. So working on one's individual consciousness is the domain of the Mano Maya, to realize himself/herself not just as a part of social network, but as an individual, and moreover, a whole, coherent, integrated Ego built around a strong moral core.
An Ego that is poorly integrated, disjointed, with a weak sense of Self is unable to successfully adapt to stress. Such people are usually governed by social programs: the software installed by their parents, peers, etc. But these resources, without a strong Mind, are inadequate and we often hear complaints that the society has let them down, that they did not receive their dues, that they are denied fulfillment by restrictive social structures. Catch 22. Social software in us does not change as quickly as the social environment, and people who had a certain set of social software installed often find themselves out of the loop in a new social environment. For example, our social networks and IT technologies have changed the social landscape so quickly that people of a certain age feel left out and confused about how to continue to be part of the social network the rules of which they do not understand.
Solution? Stay sharp, stay curious, do not dismiss new things and be willing to learn, no matter your age. An agile mind can be a powerful resource for personal transformation and adaptation. Read, attend lectures, do research, try to understand yourself and others, be curious about what new discoveries have been made in science, try on a new paradigm on yourself and see if it actually may suit you better. And not just learn new stuff, be willing to re-learn, unlearn, and question everything!
Be proactive in regards to this area of your life - this way you can really make this resource internal, rather than external, and therefore inexhaustible. This will help you strengthen your sense of Self, and you can break free from some of the (dysfunctional) software that is no longer relevant, and evolve to create new culture, new social order for the next generation. Without this there is nothing but a semi-conscious state, where one is reacting to the external stimulus, becomes a puppet of others, has no own ideas and implements others' agendas.
It is in the Mano Maya that we must take responsibility for ourselves, no matter how damaged our Self is, how easily swayed or influenced we may be, no matter how weak or even non-existent our personal boundaries, the only way to make that instant, powerful change - is to take responsibility for our state of Mind. You can become stronger only from the inside, no outside resource can give you the kind of strength you need for self-transformation.
Stay tuned for more with Vijnana Maya!