8.22.2012

The Paradox of Self-Awareness

"Until you can make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." -- Carl Jung


   Though the benefits of a regular yoga practice are many, perhaps the most life-changing is a greater sense of self awareness.  Yoga brings the light of consciousness to unconscious thought and behavior patterns (in simplified, practical terms) by training the mind -- what lies behind the thoughts -- to observe itself.

I have been exploring my own stress reactions lately.  Observing myself fall into old patterns of behavior, and observing my mind organize my wild, random thoughts with the explosive omnipresence of a gymnast in a way that justifies my choices in the moment.  It's frightening.  Just because I've dug myself from these muddy trenches in the past doesn't mean they are not still there, just as slick and treacherous as ever.

Contrary to the incomplete but understandable conclusion that an awareness practice -- be it meditation, yoga, tai chi... whatever -- might lead to withdrawal from the exterior world and perhaps even narcissism, the paradox of deepening one's self-awareness is that it leads to the inevitable realization that we are not separate from that which surrounds us.  If we observe rather than deny the ever-changing nature of the internal landscape -- the constant fluctuation of the physical, mental, and emotional states -- our individual relationship to the world around us, on both an immediate and distant scale, becomes more clear.

If I can feel my physical body and know that is inextricably linked with my emotional state, and that my emotional state colors my mind, then I can observe these relationships, decipher more clearly the jumble that is my thought-stream, and cease the desperate grasping at straws.

At least, that's the idea.  It's not easy.  Awareness is a big step, but it's not the only one.  Clear intention leads the way, but action -- living rightly -- makes it happen.  We all stumble.  And, sometimes, we slip into those old ditches we forgot we dug, but crawling out again is easier once we know we can.

*Like this post?  Here's another:  http://www.damngoodyoga.com/2012/03/what-does-compassion-look-like.html

3 comments:

  1. Love this post. Thank you so much.

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  2. I have just now found your blog and enjoy reading your thoughts on the practice and what it can teach us about our emotional states.
    I think I am observing an interesting avoidance pattern in a friend at the moment. He usually has a very solid practice but is, at the moment, emotionally in a very difficult place; one that he would rather not allow himself to be in. It prevents him from sleeping and makes him throw himself into his work. He uses this as an excuse not to practice, but I wonder whether he doesn't fear the self-awareness that comes with the practice.
    I would rather not second-guess him but cannot help myself. It all seems so clear from my side of the fence. :)
    Happy 2015!

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