I like opening books at a random page and take in what is there for me to learn. This morning I opened “The Heart of Yoga”. The book is written by T. K. V. Desikachar. Desikachar was the son of Krishnamacharya, the pioneer of modern yoga as exercise.
Very briefly described, The Heart of Yoga is about the theory and practice of yoga. I opened the book on chapter 13 which is called The Qualities of the Mind. It gives reference to the first chapter of the ancient text Yoga Sutra by Patanjali where the five levels of the mind are presented:
At the lowest level, ksipta, the human mind is described as that of “a drunken monkey swinging from branch to branch”. This implies there is no awareness of thoughts or feelings, or the connections between them. At the highest level of mind, nirodha, the mind is super clear and external distractions have no influence at all. When this happens, “the mind is linked completely and exclusively with the object of its attention”. Okay, so nirodha is bliss!
The most common state of mind is called viksipta and represents the third level of mind. Here the mind is moving between knowing what it wants and being uncertain of what it wants. Thoughts and intentions are lacking in consistence and direction and so there is no clear path going forward.
As I read about the levels of mind it was easy for me to recognise viksipta. I immediately thought that I want to go further and not be stuck there.
Wherever we are, whatever situation we are in, we always have a choice. We can decide what we want to hold in our awareness. To get to that point we need to train our awareness. If not trained it will just go here and there with no clear direction. Like that drunken monkey… It is easier to stay focused on something when we are in charge of our attention. This brings clarity of mind and is why training the mind is so valuable. When the mind is clear, external circumstances in life have less importance – unless you choose to give them importance. A clear mind allows for clarity of the direction in which you want to go.
The beauty with yoga is that its physical practice leads to more clarity of mind. Did you know this? You don’t have to sit with eyes closed and follow your breath to create space and clarity of mind – although that is always always always a good idea. Physical yoga practice might seem like a body fitness program to the person looking from the outside, but something happens on the inside of the yoga practitioner during practice. With consistent physical yoga practice you actually open to a higher level of mind. You might have experienced an intense sense of presence for your body breathing and buzzing with aliveness, and a mind that is super clear, while lying in savasana. A touch of nirodha?
Imagine how wonderful it would be to experience the mind clear and aware during your whole waking day. Your direction in life would be clear. Bring the practice of yoga into your life and notice what happens. Happy 2022 everyone!
The picture is from Antartica, the place with the most clarity I have ever seen.