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Note: For the complete lessons,
with additions, see the AYP
Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.
Lesson 11- What is Yoga? What is Religion?
Date: Sun Nov 16, 2003 11:47am
Yoga. Religion. These two words conjure up so many images, don't
they? Not all of them
clear. Not all of them good. Let's not get into the foibles of humanity right now. Let's stick to the basics. For spiritual practice is best seen in terms of the basics, and often
is clouded by the cultural coloring of these two simple words.
Yoga means, "to join." Religion means, "to bind back together."
Hmmm... similar meanings. But to join or bind back together what? Ah... this is the
essence of it. We are, or seem to be, two things that are to be put back together. On the
one hand we are in the world of space and time, a world we perceive through our senses. On
the other hand we are observers of the world, something behind it all, within it all. We
are conscious. Aware. We are both subject (observer) and object (observed). And these two
things are separate. But must they be? Are they really? Yoga and religion say
"no." So the putting together process starts there. No matter whatever else you
may have heard, that is what yoga and religion are really about.
But why the separation in the first place? If the two are really one, why are there two?
Think about yourself for a minute. Who are you? Most of us point to our body and say,
"This is me." We all sense something more, but the best we can do is observe our
body and say, "This is me. This is my body. My name is Joe Schmo. I can think and
feel, and that is part of me too." If you were to say to someone, "I am
something behind all this that you see, and behind all this that I think and feel. I am
consciousness," might it seem a bit strange? Why strange? Because we are identified
with our perceptions of our body/minds and this world. It is a habit, a deeply
biologically and neurologically ingrained habit. Not only that. Because we habitually
imprint our sense of self on our body/mind, we see our physical surroundings as separate
from ourselves. So the world becomes a stranger to itself. Through our process of
identified perception the one has become many.
Yoga and religion are about clearing up the identification of awareness that has led to
the one becoming many. Not that the world will go away. It is only to be seen for what it
really is, a flow of the one, the real you. Then it becomes a much friendlier place.
That's the whole point, to find happiness in our lives in the world. Even as the whole
thing keeps lurching forward through the shadows of apparent separateness, we don't have
to go on seeing it that way. This is the promise of yoga and religion. This is the promise
of spiritual practices. It's a good promise. It is up to us to fulfill the promise of yoga
and religion, using the means that are offered.
The joining is not just about an intellectual understanding of the situation, though that
can't hurt. It is about changing our deepest functioning, biologically and neurologically.
Then does our experience change. From that, our thoughts, feelings and actions change,
becoming full of love and purpose. We could all use more of that. The identification
gradually dissolves, and something stupendous comes up from within us. Yoga is not just an
intellectual process. It is physical, as anyone who has taken a yoga class knows. Yoga
practices operate on many levels -- physical, mental, emotional, neurological -- and in
galaxies of inner ecstatic energy!
The process of joining begins with making direct contact with our inner self, our
consciousness. Once we have established a foothold in consciousness, we can proceed from
there with many other things. Becoming aware of our deepest consciousness on a regular
basis is peaceful and pleasant and can bring immediate relief to a hectic, busy life. It
is accomplished with meditation. A very particular kind of meditation called deep
meditation. This is the first advanced yoga practice we will learn on our road to union,
on the way to binding ourselves back together. It is a good first step that brings a big
return for a small daily effort.
"Daily effort?" you say. This is what we will talk about next. For without a
commitment to a daily effort, you will be wasting your time here, and anywhere else.
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed
instructions on building a daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the
Eight Limbs of Yoga Book.
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