Yoga is Awareness
Yoga is Awareness, Awareness, and Awareness*
I realized recently how wired my brain is to “fix it” instead of awareness. I have a nano second (often literally!) of awareness and immediately my brain is “on it” trying to fix whatever I noticed. You may be thinking – “but that’s a good thing, isn’t it?” Good question.
There are a few underlying assumptions to “fix it.” (in no particular order)
One, I, who I am, is in need of fixing. I am not OK as I am. (In this mode, awareness becomes a constant reminder of what is wrong, uncomfortable, painful, in me. No wonder we avoid it!)
Two, my mind has all the wisdom, while my body is inert matter. We forget about the stores of wisdom inherent in this body-temple, as I so often call it. We lose our curiosity about, and awe of, this manifestation that is our unique expression.
Three, a nano-second is enough for full awareness; a part is independent of the whole. If I showed you a snapshot of a piece of tree bark, would you know from which tree, where it was, how big it was, how the bark came to be separate from the tree, etc.?
Four, by definition, awareness is mostly BEING, and fixing mostly DOING. Pretty much mutually exclusive, although in a yin/yang sort of way. The brain cannot do reflection and action simultaneously.
Change doesn't come from coercive action, but by being more deeply, fully aware of ‘what is’, in each moment.
My years of Gestalt training introduced me to a parallel truth via Beisser’s Paradoxical Theory of Change. In essence, change doesn't come from coercive action, from trying, but by letting go of what we want to be, and become more deeply, fully aware of yourself, exactly as you are, each moment. Here is the only stable place for lasting change.
Proust: "To heal a suffering one must experience it to the full."
Gestalt Therapy and Yoga Therapy have this paradox in common. We come to therapy seeking relief, whether it’s suffering of the body, the mind, or the heart. (or all 3, since they are interrelated). It seems natural to want a solution. But a therapist’s job isn’t to fix anyone. My job is to help each client enrich their awareness of themselves, in the present moment. So as a client moves (or speaks or breathes) I invite them to be present in their body/mind/heart RIGHT NOW – before/during/after each movement or stimulus. Then I can help them nourish what is working well for them, and quiet what is over-working.
“Leading a client to a new kind of movement leads her/him to perceive it, and leading her/him to perceive it can lead to her/his ability to reproduce … it … and this [experience] is required for behavioral change.” (Tom Myers Body3, italics mine) Paraphrased, moving without perception, without awareness, will rarely lead to behavioral change. The more deeply aware, and accepting, we are to the full quality of experience, the more deep-seated patterns of entanglement can shift.
Try this simple awareness exercise:
Settle yourself in a comfortable position, legs long or bent – however you are most at ease. Check in with your breath: let it relax and come from your belly. Scan your body-temple. See if there is a place in you that is tense or painful. Let your attention rest there. No intent to change anything… just invite your breath to move in and out of the area – say for 20 breaths. As you notice changes in your body or mind, just keep coming back to feeling breath into/out of that area. Count 20 more breaths. Notice the difference from when you began and now.
Send me a note about what you discover!
* A frequent reminder that Yogi Achala used to say. Not coincidently, he was one of my first teachers at the Gestalt Institute, and also my first Yoga teacher!