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Dharma Talk: The mind and the ego

Aloha, in this blog entry I would like to introduce a new series to you: dharma talks. During these dharma talks, we go through different parts of yoga. The history, philosophy, myths, chakras, sutras, you name it. I want to introduce this, because these days often times yoga is perceived to be just yoga asana, the physical practice of yoga poses. Yet yoga is so much more! It has such a rich history that I would like to explore with you. Yoga asana is only one of eight limbs or branches of yoga. So that leads us to today’s topic of this dharma talk. I will be talking about the mind and the ego.

We will discuss this with the help of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra in chapter one, sutra number two, which says: “Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah

Yogas is yoga

Citta is ‘mind-stuff’, the workings of the mind.

Vrtti means fluctuations (of mind and breath)

Nirodhah means to stop

This Sutra is often translated as ‘Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind’, or as my teacher taught me: Yoga occurs when we stop identifying with our thoughts.

All too often, as students of yoga, we can hear ourselves saying we can’t do something, when faced with a difficult asana. The pose might be too difficult, or at least that is what the mind tells us, what our ego tells us. In fact, that is actually where the true ‘yoga’ lies for us. It is where we learn the most. We can research this by asking ourselves if this is actually true. We then often learn that it isn’t, those thoughts are actually false beliefs that we tell ourselves.

We think we need to be able to do difficult asanas (or anything in life for that matter) within a few days. We expect it to just happen, without really putting in any effort. We live in a society that is all about the ‘fast’ way to do something. Losing weight in 7 days, getting abs in 10 days, and so on. This fast route simply isn’t sustainable. There are no shortcuts in learning our lessons, in becoming truly free. Essentially, that is what we are looking for in our practice, this sense of freedom, actual ‘nirodhah’, our very best state of mind/control over the mind.

Yoga isn’t about being able to do an asana ‘perfectly’. What does that mean anyways? On social media we are bombarded with images of people doing headstand, or placing their leg behind the head, and we are drawn to this. However, this doesn’t mean these people are better at yoga. They might just be very flexible or bendy. Their connection to the practice might be somewhere else, or they might have been working on attaining the pose for years. The true power of yoga, in my opinion, lies within those very moments and postures that don’t come easily to us. The ones we have to fight for, work at day in, day out. The ones where we are forced to take a good look at ourselves, and with loving kindness approach the practice, with compassion. Some poses take weeks, months, or even years to learn, and that’s ok. The journey is what matters here, it is where your lessons are.

When we are faced with the ego, when the mind wants us to believe we can’t do something, we need to understand that these are false truths. There is a very beautiful lesson to be learned here. If we connect to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.2, which says ‘Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah’, we can learn exactly this.

The fluctuations of the mind that we are experiencing are there to teach us very valuable lessons. So, with practice, the fluctuations of the mind (the thinking) stop and then we have yoga.

Everything we just talked about is further explained in the fourth and last chapter of the Yoga Sutra. Here we learn that yoga is actually a combination of two things:

  • Abhyasa (practice)

  • Vairagya (detachment)

Next time you approach a difficult situation in life, or even during your practice, remember this. Approach life with love, compassion, and enjoy learning. Put in the effort and the practice, but letting go and detaching from the outcomes.

Thank you for joining me for this dharma talk. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on this!

Namaste!

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