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Let’s Come Together: Confronting Illusion of the Mind

You choose to shine with the light of your own divinity.
Or you hide it with the shadows you create in your own mind. 

– SWAMI NIRMALANANDA –


I was in attendance for Clara’s 300-hour YTT with 13 individuals who travelled from various locations across Canada. We were together for 12-hours a day dissecting the movement, ethics, language, and philosophy of all things related to the art of yoga. Given the global response to COVID-19 through social distancing, I felt our group was safe in our own little globe, totally removed and impervious to the sweeping illness many countries face. I was under the illusion that everything was under control despite the statistics posted on the World Health Organization website. 

On day five of our experience together, Clara made the decision to postpone the training as we watched studios across the city shut-down for the foreseeable future. I felt angry, lostt, and irritated by her decision. Hours later, when I’d arrived home and decompressed, I came to terms with my state of illusion and how I’d dissociated from current affairs. In an effort to be present and avoid the amassing fear, I ignored the signals and mounting state of tension expressed around the room and the world. I fabricated a safe space in an attempt to distance myself from the unknown circumstances we’re dealing with internationally. 

Our imagination is a wonderful tool to assist personal transformation and alchemize our experiences as we bring meaning to the roles we play in the world. Ilusion is akin to the imagined realm through the deception of the senses, therefore allowing the formation of opinions based on misinformation. The two play a synonymous role in developing higher states of awareness and consciousness as the brain evolves in how it takes in, processes, and redistributes information. The human species is unique in our ability to analyse, interpret, and believe in real and imagined surroundings, as well as our personal and shared narratives. The capacity for self-reflection sets us apart from other species. It is vital, especially now, to make space to meditate, reflect, and be with the feelings that arise to develop an honest perspective and connect to the truth. Our truth is felt and comes from within, it cannot be rationalized. Our mind is pervasive in creating stories that serve personal biases (thank you, ego!)  so we must make space for self-reflection to discover illusion and sift out the truth. How we create and/or mistake the fictional from the real is a pivotal step in our evolution as individuals and as a collective. When we understand how illusion and imagination are present in our lives and how story creates separation, we may come to a higher level of consciousness as we connect to universal truths. 

Want to connect to the community and continue your practice? Clara’s online apps launched this week so you login and watch on Android, MACs, PCs, streaming media boxes such as Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Amazon fire TV.

Illusion and the Powers of the Mind

In Indian philosophy illusion is known as maya. The earliest mention of maya is in Vedic texts from the mid 2nd to mid 1st millennium BCE where maya is depicted as an extraordinary power or wisdom. Maya has since evolved as a spiritual concept that alludes to the idea that something exists but is not what it seems. Maya is the understanding of reality as a concept that is constantly in flux, cycling through change, and constantly being made. Maya presents us with a deception in what we think we know about the world and reveals how limited our perception truly is. Because the world is always changing and evolving, we can’t know all there is to know in any given moment. Our understanding of reality based on our limited perception is inherently flawed. 

Maya means that the world is not as it seems; the world that one experiences is misleading as far as its true nature is concerned.
– Hendrick Vroom

Maya is a filter that colours all experiences and provides a lens to see the world based on our conditioning, cultural upbringing, social context, traumas and experiences. We may approach situations with a specific story in mind that clouds and confuses our ability to see what is really going on. Our ego has all sorts of tactics to keep us in varying states of maya to protect us from feelings we don’t want to feel, such as sadness, loss, humiliation, and vulnerability. For example, if I’ve been betrayed by a friend in the past, this may cause me to perceive all new attempts in friendship from others with a shade of paranoia and suspicion to protect myself from being hurt again. Continuing to replay the same stories within our lives binds us to a wheel of suffering and keeps us in a state of avidya, ignorance. When we acknowledge our limited capacity to understand and control our surroundings we might create more awareness and acceptance of maya and how illusion works within our own lives.

confronting illusions of the mind

The schools of Vedanta and Classical philosophy are based off the Vedas, a collection of sacred texts of India. They believe that maya is an expression of avidya (ignorance). To come to a more robust understanding of the Self and the world, one must work to realize and remove ignorance. This practice would require an understanding of both explicit and implicit truths, (implicit being the truths we may not immediately perceive or understand), and observing the self in terms of recognizing god or the divine within. The Vedanta and Yoga schools share how the veil of ignorance and illusion is lifted when the practitioner understands Brahman (the divine) and sees their freedom as inseparable from the nature of the Atman (the soul). 

Our true nature is aligned with the divine and connected to all beings in the universe. Our separation from others and our own inner divinity is an expression of maya when we view and identify with our ego-selves as our true nature. Ultimately, we are all incarnate expressions of the divine connected through the Atman. Humans develop constructs to depict varied states of subjective experience which express principles and laws at work. Maya is an expression of this duality contained in our ego-selves and our true Self (Atman). The ego may create stories of separation and keep us from the larger truths of the world if we become focused on power, money, and other forms of labelling that may shade our perception. Maya conceals our true nature through appearances and keeps us separate from discovering the divine within us and all around us. 

Just as when the dirt is removed, the real substance is made manifest; just as when the darkness of the night is dispelled, the objects that were shrouded by the darkness are clearly seen, when ignorance [Maya] is dispelled, truth is realized.
–  Vashistha

It’s important in every situation to reflect upon what we know as well as take into account what we may not know/see/understand before we form an opinion. This level of observation takes practice and patience to cultivate. It requires an openness and flexibility of the mind to see things for what they are without our own layers of suffering and storytelling. Our emotions tend to colour events with varying shades of truths and untruths. Waiting until an emotion has subsided to reflect on a situation may give a little more space to see events with less bias and blame. It is a powerful skill to develop the consciousness and control to see illusion present in our reality and the ways it tricks the senses into perceiving untruths as real. 

Working with the Crown Chakra

The neocortex, also known as our higher mind, is the centerpiece for our imagination, empathy, impartial judgement, conscious thought, and language. Whenever we access our higher mind, we act with more care toward others and move beyond petty biases. We have the ability to approach people and situations with a little more creativity and compassion and a little less comparison and jugement. We may approach situations through the lens of our imagination and see the potential and possibility contained in every moment. We can develop more presence and patience as a result. Leaning into our imagination can help us perceive the duality we live in and fully encompass the varied states of beauty and suffering. Our imagination may give us access to see the stories we create in and all those we meet as characters to teach us a moral lesson. When we create fiction and recognize the mind in establishing roles and projections, we might begin to understand and witness how the mind may embellish and twist events in real life.

To access the higher mind, a practice of meditation, deep breathing, and yoga may assist in creating more awareness and tapping into your imagination, empathy, and conscious thought. One method used in yoga to tap into the higher mind is chakra meditation. Chakras are intersections of nadis/energy lines that run through the body. Yogis focus on the seven that run up our spinal column. When we meditate and unblock the chakras, we can release blockages and allow the prana (life force) to flow more freely within us. The Vedas are the first place that mention the chakras somewhere between 1500-300 BCE. The Vedas is the first piece of Indian literature that mentioned the chakras system somewhere between 1500 and 300 BCE. There are seven chakras from the tip of the tailbone to the crown of the head that correspond to specific organs and influence the physical, emotional, and psychological states of the person. When we work with and unblock the chakras, we may release more energy and allow the prana (life force) to flow more freely within us. 

 

Connect to Your HIgher Mind in this Crown Chakra Flow with Clara

The chakra is the centre of our spiritual connection to our higher selves, others, and the divinity of the universe, and the crown chakra is known as Sahaswara in Sanskrit and the thousand petal lotus. When we are connected to our seventh chakra it is said we can see the interconnectedness to all beings. We recognize Brahman (the divine) in ourselves and all those around us. A blocked seventh chakra may result in a feeling of loneliness and disconnect when we disconnect, we are unable to see how limitless and expansive the universe is. Meditation and breathwork may assist in cultivating pure awareness and harnessing the energy of the seventh chakra. 

Breathe to Unite Body with Mind

Yoga, equally through physical practice and application of philosophy, strengthens the body and mind simultaneously to bring one into their higher mind where compassion resides. From Patanjali’s Sutras, the Eight Limbs of Yoga are an accessible guide to live with more discipline and awareness of self. I previously discussed two of the Eight Limbs with the Yamas and Niyamas and how they provide a framework to live ethically within the inner and outer worlds. The next two limbs are asana and pranayama, the physical practice of yoga and breathing techniques. 

Asanas are the physical postures of yoga, meant to purge the body of toxins for long lasting health. Initially asana was used to prepare the body for  meditation, assisting the practitioner in sitting in a calm and effortless manner. The practice of asana brings awareness to the body through repetition and proper alignment of each pose. Asana creates a sense of balance and wellness in uniting the body with the breath, and supporting healthy functioning of the organs, muscles, and glands, proper circulation, elimination, and detoxification. As one pursues the asana with dedication and focus, pranayama and meditation are accessible. The body is the temple, the gateway to realizing how we feel and our sense impressions. 

Develop The Power of Prana with Clara

Pranayama is breath regulation and expansion and the life force that we carry. Practice of pranayama will help to clear the mind of any distraction as one prepares for meditation. Our breath is our primary contact with the world, giving us life and energy. We may discover our ability to equally calm and invigorate ourselves just by manipulating our breath. Our breath may be conscious or unconscious, and as we practice, we may develop more awareness of how our breath affects our body, mood, and mental states.

Seeing Our Stories as Stories and Not Ourselves

One of the greatest lessons the practice of yoga has given me is the ability to be with the truth that arises when I sit with myself. Illusion and the imagined have distinct roles to play as we navigate the world and experience life’s lessons. As I evolve and come to a greater understanding of just how vast the universe is and how small our part is in the great chain of being, I see how maya affects our mental constructs. My ego keep me bound to limited narratives where my expectations, assumptions, and emotions conceal the truth. But when I make the space to be with my breath, my bodies, and really listen to what arises, I discover a higher mind where non-judgement and compassion allow me to connect to all beings.

Do not lose heart,
Stephanie
stephaniedawntrembath

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