I say to my mind “Be quiet, I can’t hear what is really happening.”
My mind replies “I’m not the one talking, you are”.
Did I just say that or was it my mind?
“Oh be quiet, focus”, I tell myself. “My breath. Breathe. Focus.” I eventually settle into my meditation practice and find a harmonious experience where my mind quiets and I am simply observing it, without any attachment or aversion to the impermanent nature of things. Over time, I observe the very root of any potential suffering and allow it to arise and pass.
I sit, I contemplate, I observe. My mind, my mental cognition, my thoughts, my ego, and my dreams take over my awareness. I am aware as it is happening and therefore, I am observing. I re-direct my awareness to the sensations that are arising, present, and passing in my body. I feel sleepy, I notice it, I sit up. I observe the experience of sleepiness. My mind always has something to say about what I see and feel and hear. Again, I am observing and aware that my mind never ceases to share its opinion, assessment, evaluation of what simply is.
Observing the mind objectively is not an easy practice. On the one hand, there is a necessary awareness of the distinction between the Self and the Mind. We have many expressions in our English language that speak to this confused identification we have with our minds. “I don’t feel like myself today”. “It’s not like me to have done something like that”. “I can’t hear myself talk”. “I keep telling myself to stop, but I can’t”. “I am trying to discipline myself to change this or that habit”. Everyone experiences this. So, the first step in developing an understanding of the mind if to distinguish it from who You are. You are not your mind. You are separate.
And yet, You are your mind. Once an awareness of the distinction is present and once you have a true experience of the You that exists as separate from the mind, the practice becomes about experiencing a sense of integration without identification. Integration means a union, a yoking, a joining. As you observe your mind’s tendencies, as you separate yourself from its agitations and fluctuations, it eventually quiets. It’s in the quiet spaces that You can observe that You and your mind are one and the same. Observe your mind in the same way you would look through the surface of the water to see what exists in the depths of a lake. When the water is calm; when sediments and particles settle; when the water is pure and clear and you aren’t creating waves or disturbances, you can see what exists at the bottom. It’s in those moments of clarity that things begin to shift. We can let go, see what is, and distinguish between what is actually happening in reality and what we interpret is happening in reality.
To me, that is yoga. The practice through your physical postures encompasses the same process of observation. The only difference is you are moving through sensations as opposed to sitting.
In his book “Mindfulness: a Practical Guide to Awakening”, Joseph Goldstein puts it simply: “If you want to understand your mind, sit down and observe it”. Or – move and observe it until your body feels comfortable enough to sit without distraction. Either way, find at least some moments to observe the mind without movement to allow for things to arise and notice what the mind’s tendencies are in how it reacts to the sensations in the body. Sit without movement. And simply observe.
Be mindful, be free of the conditioning of your mind, and be happy.