There are a lot of resources available now to help us learn to meditate. Most people could list, in general terms, some or all of the benefits of meditation. To a degree, it’s a no-brainer, although not everyone has the inclination or the time to get into it. But things were different thousands of years ago. Life was slower, and simpler. Why did anyone ever start meditating in the first place?
Humans haven’t evolved for a long time. We’re pretty much the same now as we were five or six thousand years ago, although we have more sophisticated techniques now. Way back when Yoga was being born, people were every bit as intelligent as we are now. As they learned to write and record, they began to think about the nature of knowledge.
I’m going to use the example of a tree. Personally, I love trees, and I like sitting in the woods amongst the trees and the birdsong. Lately, while enjoying the woods like this, I began to think about how many ways I can observe them. I can look at them, I can knock my knuckles on them and hear the sound, I can smell their blossom, I can hear the leaves moving in the breeze.
But that’s not all. Clever devices can turn invisible details into something I can see, hear, smell, taste or touch. A microscope allows me to see the cell structure, for instance. Suddenly, there are hundreds or even thousands of ways to “know” trees, or anything else, if I use machines.
But there’s a problem. Most devices translate impenetrable detail into sight. Some create sounds. A few create texture, or touch. All of them have to make the world into something I can already process. In truth, we fundamentally affect every observation we make: if it doesn’t map onto one of our senses, then we’re going to ignore it.
When ancient Yogis considered this, they realised that any observation is incomplete knowledge. Any observation only really tells you about yourself. For instance: when a giraffe sees a tree, it sees something to eat. When a bird sees a tree, it sees somewhere to nest. When a bee sees a tree, it sees somewhere to collect nectar. When a human sees a tree – well, the human often sees something to cut down and use in an entirely different way. Some see a way to reduce carbon. The point is, every observation we make can only tell us something about ourselves.
If observing something is incomplete knowledge, then merging with it will be complete knowledge – right? Merging, or the concept of union, of Yoga, became important. Is there a way to merge in knowledge?
This is where Yoga and Hot Yoga become so practical. Merging with something is what we all do naturally. We’ve all had those times when we’re engrossed in what we’re doing, and we don’t notice the time pass. Sometimes, we wake up from a task, and notice that we’re not breathing even though we’re not out of breath! Merging with an object is what we do naturally anyway – if we can get away from all the distractions.
Over the thousands of years since, Yoga evolved many techniques to clear distractions and improve focus. The practices of Yoga are all aimed at this., Whether it’s posture, mantra, or meditation – it’s all about quietening the distractions so we can merge with just whatever we are practicing. Keep at it, and you’ll learn to merge with your everyday life. You’ll be in Yoga, always.
And that is why, originally, people started to meditate. This next bit is for the hardcore Yogis, so feel free to skip the really esoteric stuff that follows.
In modern Yoga parlance, in the West, Shiva is taken to be pure knowledge, pure awareness. That is, knowledge that is not contextual. For instance – there was a recent earthquake in New Zealand. The seismic readings are contextual – they only mean something when you relate them back to that earthquake. All our knowledge is contextual, because it depends on who is looking and what they are looking t. Then, and only then, do the results have meaning. We can conjecture that there is an essence of knowledge, the very root of what it means to know, before any subject of knowledge comes in. That’s awareness and it’s completely non-judgemental. You could consider the concept of Shiva to be like that kind of total knowing, applied to all things, over all time.
If Shiva is ultimate knowledge of all, then we must all be one in Shiva. Why? Because knowledge of any one thing – like me – is incomplete. Whatever anyone knows about me, is not me. It’s their take on me. The only true knowledge of “me” is Shiva. Of course, the final conclusion of that is that I, you, and all things are Shiva and are one. As the Yogis would say, it’s already Yoga, it’s already one. It’s just a matter of catching up with that…