Meditative state that Yoga creates is where we are able to witness the present moment if not without thoughts, then at least without the feelings that these thoughts create. Our never-ending thoughts and feelings sap and dissipate our energy. Have you ever noticed that just sitting and turning over in our mind the thoughts that fill it we can get worn out?

I am not sure it is entirely possibly to turn off the thinking process altogether, probably not. Even Patangali in his Yoga Sutras hints at this in the second Sutra: "Yoga is the restriction of mental fluctuations." The Sanskrit word nirodhah translates as restraint. When the mental energy trapped in the thinking process is released, it can be directed and controlled, and it brings with it a sense of freedom, moksha. Yoga has developed many tools to achieve this: asanas, pranayamas, mantras, which can be chosen to suit the practitioner. This criteria is a good one to use to evaluate the effectiveness of your Yoga practice - if the  mental grind and chatter do not subside as a result of your Yoga efforts, you need to look at the other tools in the Yoga toolbox.

Thoughts are for the most part illusions, a kind of a smokescreen that prevents us from seeing the situation clearly and truthfully. Most thoughts reflect a rather distorted perception that has been colored by our previous experiences, our samskaras (prejudices), and fears. Memory is a kind of bondage: we become dependent on it for understanding out present and predicting our future. Memory, however, is an unreliable source of information, because it is selective and can distort perception to suit our psychological defenses. It takes enormous energy to maintain psychological defenses, because they create a vision of reality that sometimes directly contradicts it. It takes a lot of work not to notice reality! It is exhausting and stressful.

When we restrain this inner monologue of the thoughts running rampant, we can experience the kind of freedom and elation that can sometimes be achieved with potent psychotic medicines and drugs. Be warned, I would advise moderation in this pursuit also, as in everything else, but if I had to be addicted to something, I think I'd rather be addicted to Yoga. It is free, accessible any time with a few long exhalations and a minute or two of concentration on the sensations of the present moment. It is in that inner space that we can see the true nature of things, and see ourselves the way we are, without distortions.

A word about fear. Fear often prevents us from even trying - we develop many ways by which we protect ourselves from the brutal reality, because we have not developed the skills and the strength to deal with it. But to admit one's weakness is already the first step towards freedom. We only need to see just how destructive fear is, the way it makes us do absurd and illogical things, to revolt against being enslaved by fear. Fear is a rejection of reality that is too painful to bear. The source of fear is our dependency on things, people, and circumstances because we do not know ourselves. It is through the process of Svadyaya, or self-study, that we can overcome fear and find a way to be free. That is next on our list of things to discuss!


Anna M.