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.
In this way, we create ourselves – co-operative or divisive, cheerful or sombre, by responding to limited information with limited techniques. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad puts it like this:
“You are what your deep, driving desire is. Your desire drives your will. Your will drives your actions. You actions drive your destiny.”
Our minds function in this way by design of course. Living in the world means meeting needs all the time – the need for food, shelter, security, company – all need individual attention. The mind evolved to look at specific things with the best information and techniques immediately to hand.
As our Yoga asana practice progresses, we see visible, physical changes. New movement options open up. Everything we “knew” about our bodies is changing too – it really comes home that we “know” nothing at all. All we’ve got is a snapshot, a point in time on all the things we thought were certain. Reality keeps moving on. Reality is change.
It can be weird! Can we ever really know anything at all? Deepening our Yoga practice might provide an answer. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras give a practice framework to strip back consciousness and get behind all the partial filters we have in place (raja yoga). The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (“Light on Joining Sun and Moon”) gives many techniques to change and clarify body and mind (hatha yoga) to the same end. Without losing contact with our animal roots as a human dependent on this earth for life, we can reach the ultimate third person point of view. We can see ourselves and everything else in the complete context of this interdependent and changing world.