Yoga is for everyone!
In the previous blog we talked about how social programming often determines the way we feel, act, and think. It is the layer of us where we obtain and develop a sense of belonging, our place in the social matrix, the roles we play there, and our Dharma - or ways we contribute to it. In the domain of the Ananda Maya we can transcend further, into a realm of pure joy and contentment, by rewiring our brain. Let's take a look at what neuroplasticity is.
Through an established Yoga practice that includes meditation, we can not only make our body healthy (Ana Maya), increase our energy and vitality (Prana Maya), learn new ideas and have a clearer understanding of ourselves (Mano Maya), become more productive members of society (Vijnana Maya), but we can also change who we are - Ananda Maya.
If we reinforce certain neurological pathways by repeated actions and thoughts, and if we become aware of what we are doing and thinking, then we can choose to do and think the way that brings us more joy. It is human nature to dwell on the sad, unpleasant things, however it is also possible to notice if we are stuck in a certain train of thought and re-direct our awareness to something else. In Yoga this is called Pratipaksha Bhavana, or "visualization of the opposite." For example, if you constantly catch yourself thinking "I am worthless," you actually do have a choice - you can either continue to think that, thus burying yourself deeper into the trench of this particular neurological path, or you can say instead: "I am a valued individual," and start creating a new pathway.
It is important to have a realistic view of oneself (Mano Maya), so that our self-worth is not overestimated. One extreme to think that one is worthless, another extreme to believe oneself superior to everyone else. Most people's objective value falls somewhere in the middle - we all have our unique talents, but also have limitations and constraints. It is important to make peace with those and direct our energy into endeavors where it would be most useful. It is in this balance that happiness lies - whenever our subjective value and objective value do not correlate, be that because our subjective value is too low or too high, it creates a sense of dissonance.
Ananda Maya is a place deep inside us where we can look forward with expectation, where we appreciate the joys of life when they are happening (awareness of the present moment), when we can recollect past joys and thus create a state of expansive, joyful consciousness.
This state of joy is possible when we make those other areas, or resources of our body, energy, mind, and social connections, internal. When we are able to internalize our resources and no longer depend on validation from the outside, when we know what we want and why, if what we want does not go outside the established social norms and does not harm anyone, but rather contributes to the greater good - we align ourselves. We align the subjective value with the objective value. Things "feel right." There are no doubts, no hesitation, we always find the right thing to say and the right thing to do in any circumstance, and we feel calm and content with our choices.
This is where we can break free from the conditioning of the Vijnana
Maya, the Social Matrix. Whatever our parents said or did, whatever the
bullies in school called you, however you were treated by your ex - all
of that can be rewritten! We don't need to walk through life burdened by
our past by constantly rehashing old wounds. Re-program your brain, and
you will have the you you've always wanted. Do you want to feel sad,
anxious, unfulfilled, zombified? You don't have to.