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Jeff BeaudoinApproximately 90% of the human mind is unconscious; meaning your conscious experience is just 10% of what’s really going on… just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of what you have learned and experienced – the memories and beliefs that form your worldview and the feelings from which they stem, the conditioned mental programs that run your habitual responses and automatic functions of your body – it’s all kept hidden away from waking consciousness. And what’s more: any uncomfortable, overwhelming, or shameful experiences that you have denied or repressed become part of what psychologists call your shadow. All of that energy is still there in the background, below the surface, exerting a very powerful influence over your waking life. The shadow, along with the functions of the reptilian and lower limbic brain structures inherited from your ancestors, is why you are more often seemingly unaware of the deeper reasons why you feel what you feel or do what you do. The unconscious mind and primitive parts of the brain do not lend to conscious, willful decisions or actions. They are the source of pure instinct and automatic responses driven by survival needs: like the body, a means to an end. You can live on automatic pilot because of your unconscious mind and lower brain structures, as most people do most of the time. You can live much of your life today on “automatic pilot” because so much of our routines are easily habituated and so little requires original thought. Yet this is also how you can become a slave to your past and external forces. Conversely, if you make a sincere effort to pay closer attention to your sensory experience right now – to really hear everything you can, to see without prejudice and with fresh eyes, to feel with a deeper level of sensitivity, and to taste and smell like it’s all brand new – you will find a whole new world. You can pay closer attention, you can be more present, you can wake up. It’s a choice – one that Yoga implores you to make. All Yoga is meditation. Meditation is about cultivating greater conscious awareness and mental control. A byproduct of meditation is that some of what was unconscious becomes conscious… so 10% conscious slowly grows to 15% and so on. It also stimulates the higher brain structures of the neo-cortex including almost infinite creative and learning capacities. This is called waking up. Unlike so many things in our lives, Yoga is not about controlling or changing external matters, physical circumstances, happenstance, or others. You are in constant relationship with the material world, and with other beings, but you cannot control what others think or do; you cannot control what happens to you. You can only control how you react to what happens, what you think and perceive, and what you do. So Yoga asks you to work on that, on controlling what you can control. Yoga asks you to strive for self-mastery. What is the self we are tasked to master? In typical everyday waking consciousness we tend to identify with our thoughts, body, personality, relationships, experiences, opinions, talents, possessions, etc. as our true self. But these things are impermanent, outward expressions of the mind. What you really are, fundamentally, is the ever-present eternal witnessing consciousness that is aware of these things, aware of the body, aware of the material world. You are not your name and the story attached to it. What you are is a soul inhabiting human form. That is, the observer that is aware and can therefore make conscious choices. Yoga calls this witnessing consciousness “Purusha.” A subject cannot be an object simultaneously: you cannot be aware of something and be what you are aware of. You cannot be aware of thoughts and the body and simultaneously be thoughts and the body. Everything you can become aware of is just something you are aware of. Because your Purusha is aware of your mind and body, it is different than the mind and body. Your Purusha does not enter time and space like your mind and body, it simply watches time and space. The mind and body are, like the world, temporary and impermanent. The Purusha is, like light, infinite and eternal. Awareness is not learned intellect; awareness is true spiritual knowledge in the absolute sense. The detached awareness resulting from consistent meditation practice leads to greater Self-understanding and therefore, Self-knowledge. In other words, you learn to simply reside as the Purusha. The more you are aware, the more you understand. But Yoga says to be aware is not enough: you must also take dominion over the mind and body. Awareness leads to insight into how your mind works and why you do what you do. Awareness does not, however, mean you have gained control over it. It does not mean you have mastered yourself. Awareness without control is not fun, and can be very uncomfortable, but it’s a great start. If you can learn to observe and accept how your mind works without identifying with it or running away from uncomfortable feelings, you will ultimately develop the choice to act otherwise. Then you can no longer be a victim. When you are no longer a victim, then you are free. The word “Yama” in Yoga means self-discipline, self-restraint and self-control. The first thing is learning to pay attention. The second is developing awareness. That leads ultimately to many good things, including control of the mind and body. Self-discipline leads to self-understanding and control,which results in greater freedom and ultimately joy. The end is the beginning: that is the promise of Yoga practice.   Dr. Jeff Beaudion

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