The Prize

Many people describe the wonderful benefits they’ve had through their Yoga practice – weight loss, injury rehab, cutting stress, and many others. It’s great that there’s so much on offer. I feel that there’s even more, if we keep up the practice, although the biggest prize may not be quite what expected.

Yoga books describe the characteristics of good students. Reading these, we might think we have to change or try to be different, like we’re not quite up to the job. I don’t think this is true; I think that we’re at exactly the right point to start, and that the necessary qualities will develop – if we can stick with the practice. What are the qualities?

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To Try is To Achieve

Human bodies change chemically all the time as mood and activity fluctuate. Body structure changes more slowly, partly from behaviour (eg more/less exercise), partly from persistent chemical effects (eg continuous stress depletes immune function). We’re not just what we eat, but what we think, feel and do as well. My body is my history – every previous moment features in the fabric of my being in some way.

Yoga speaks of annamaya kosha (“anna” – food; the “food body”): an adaptable, physical shroud around a core self. The tradition also describes anandamaya kosha (“ananda” – bliss) deep within, paired with an eternal and indestructible, true self. This intrinsic self is not separated from others or the world at large – it’s in constant union with its image in every other living being. It’s life itself, endless celebrating it’s own spontaneity and diversity.

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My dog and me

People often talk about a soul. But what is it? In truth, does anyone really know? Maybe we can say that there’s a spark of life. It differentiates a dead body from one that was alive a few seconds before.

I have a faithful and loving pet dog. Is her spark of life is equivalent to mine? She behaves very differently to me, but the “soul” that animates her seems just as strong as mine.

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Mutant skills

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras discuss radical advances in personal ability – skills to become invisible, and many other “superhuman” capabilities – skills that Patanjali was said to possess. We know that Jesus was said to have miraculous powers, and other texts same the same about the Buddha.

It comes down to personal opinion, but when we have multiple historical sources, from different regions and different centuries listing the same phenomena, then we could look deeper and ask why this keeps cropping up.

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No Pain, No Gain

An episode of Time Team deals with a Roman massacre of druids on Angelsey. The druids buried hordes of precious goods as an offering to their gods for help. These were items of great value. Many cultures include ideas of sacrifice – giving up something valuable, in exchange for progress or improvement.

The flip side of this (and the message from the Yoga tradition) is that whatever is sacrificed isn’t needed anyway. Somehow it’s a barrier to progress and must be given up. So rather than penance, sacrifice is in fact a return to wholeness.

Yoga practice helps us to look at why and how we create situations where “sacrifice” is needed. Because why would anyone need sacrifice – surely it’s more effective to just manage growth and expectations well?

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Great pics

I can take a picture of a beautiful view. But afterwards – especially if I return to the same place – even the best picture doesn’t do justice as cameras have limitations. In fact anything that tries to snapshot real-world events has – cameras, microphones, news services and of course eyes and ears themselves. All our senses are a very detailed, but still partial, view of the world.

Whatever we hear isn’t the full sound. Whatever we see isn’t the full view. Whatever we remember isn’t the full event. We react based on what see, hear, touch etc AND memories of previous similar situations, so we’ll never be able to generate a full response. We’ll only ever deal with some aspects of events, as we personally see them.

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The Ultimate TV

Where do you want to go? Just put the postcode in the SatNav and it leads you there. For a moment, imagine an emotional SatNav – a digital way to program in a desired state of mind, and the machine leads you to it. We already have psychotherapy and NLP etc. – these are organic.

“Terminator” suggests artificial intelligence leads to a world where machine mind rules humans. That’s an over-simplification. Our ongoing abdication of thought process (and therefore responsibility) – even how to get around – drives the rise of “machine mind”.

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iTunes (or any other library-based media player) is great, right? All of my playable content instantly available, wherever I go. What if we could collect a library of lives, if birth is simply selecting “play” for a particular life from our library? Angels and demons might be just those who choose to collect lives of goodness or badness respectively.

Part of us would have to carry over between lives for this to be true, and that part would have to have a decision-making ability – it would have to be able to think in some way. Some of us might see this as a soul, an element of ourselves that endures forever.

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My family

Lots of us have brothers or sisters. Siblings represent a group that can trace their origin directly to a previous generation. Of course, our parents also had brothers and sisters, so a group of cousins can trace their origins to a single set of grandparents.

If we look back more than two generations then our group of cousins expands dramatically. Imagine looking right back, to the point where humans began to evolve as a distinct species. This would be a relatively small group of animals by modern population standards. Large sections of the world’s people are “cousins” as a result of the family groups of that time, so long ago.

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Just the most difficult…

Just the most difficult…

Person, task, money problem – an endless list of times we can feel this way.

When we’re at the point of putting our heads in our hands in desperation, when we’re really starting to resent what’s happening and all the people we see as responsible, we’ve actually invested a lot of emotional energy. We have literally given ourselves, at least at some level, to the very thing we struggle with.

Yoga offers an explosive interpretation – that most of the struggle is not in the situation on our hands, but in dealing with our own feelings about it. Feelings and hormones (like adrenaline etc) work together. Levels of stress chemicals climb and climb as we consider all the wrong done. On the other hand, actions – in themselves – are neutral and dispassionate. In theory at least, we can solve the problem without getting stressed.

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