Total Mind Body Awareness

Yoga Practice

by Jayaram V

We all have the ability to concentrate, with the difference that we concentrate on what interests us most. We see this happening everyday, when we see children engrossed in watching TV or adults watching their favorite program or speaking about pet projects. What is important is we have to develop an ability to concentrate, not just on those we are interested, when we are relaxing, when we have time, when we need, but on every thing and everywhere, on whatever that presents itself, wherever we are, at any time of the day and night, without effort, without discrimination and without particular interest.

If we can achieve that, if we can concentrate without struggle even on those in which we are least interested, on anything that presents itself in our field of awareness, we will experience life in a much different light, perceive things as never before, and learn more by staying in the present and in tune with the flow of life. We can call it the effortless concentration. If we are fortunate enough to acquire the rare ability, our field of experience will broaden and so do our minds and our chances of success and happiness as we begin to see efficiently more opportunities and alternative ways of doing things and taking decisions.

But how can we develop such an ability? We focus on things we love. That is Nature's design to conserve our energies and prepare us for facing life's innumerable challenges. How can then we break this habit of the mind and learn to become the same to life's myriad wonders?

To answer that question we have to understand what we are and how we learn. One of the secrets we have to remember every time we speak about self-development is that human beings are complex beings both physically and mentally. Everything inside a human being is interrelated. To change something in some aspect, we have to be aware of what is happening in other parts, to make sure that when we change some aspect of our personalities, it is not going to cause problems elsewhere. Most of us know about the problems doctors and physicians face when they have deal with medical problems. They have to make sure that in treating a patient they have to deal with the consequences and the side effects their treatment is going to cause. And for that they have to subject the patient to a series of tests and keep him or her under careful observation. Even then, many times things go wrong and doctors get the blame for negligence or ignorance. The problem with our minds is much more complicated, because we do not know much about how they work and how one part of the mind influences the other. Of late we have started gaining some understanding about the mechanism of the brain and the nervous system. But a great deal of it is still a mystery like black holes that exist in the universe.

What this means is, if we have to practice concentration on a lasting basis and make it our second nature, we need to look deeper into ourselves to change whatever is necessary to accomplish it. We may learn a few tricks of concentration by reading a few books on yoga or visiting a meditation center or a Zen retreat. But, unless we cultivate a deeper awareness these efforts would not bear fruit. Once the initial motivation wears out, we return to normalcy and become the same person again. We might remember how pleasant or unpleasant the experience was or how expensive. But in the thick of our daily routine we fall back into our old habits. Like a newly coated paint, the new knowledge would just wear away.

For effective and lasting self-transformation, our learning has to be deep rooted, and our effort must be sincere and unrelenting. Our knowledge has to be meaningful in a practical sense and become part of our awareness. It should be assimilated and put into practice. Like an injected medicine that flows into various parts of the body through the blood vessels, what we learn has to seep into our consciousness and touch all those areas that are vital for the change to that need to be changed. If you aim is to keep the car in a good condition, you have to take care of the nuts and bolts and keep the parts well aligned and lubricated. If the lights are dim, you may not get the best results by changing the lights, but by taking care of the engine, the wiring, the dynamo and the battery. The truth is, if you want to be a master of change, whatever may be the change you are seeking in yourself, you need to have a total mind body awareness.

Many people seek change in their lives because they are dissatisfied with whatever they have or whatever they are and without understanding themselves or the need for change, they keep trying to improve themselves for the rest of their lives irrespective of whether their efforts yield results or not. Their dissatisfaction or the feeling of something amiss, keeps them engaged in the illusion of improvement. They want to be better. They want more. They want to be different. They want to bring Change with a capital C. They want to learn more. They keep attending training classes or meet specialists and gurus to listen to them. What begins as a quest for self-improvement, soon becomes a habit from which many hardly every come out. So they keep repeating the process, caught in a vicious cycle of seeking, rather than doing what is necessary to bring the change. This happens because they do not address the underlying causes but the superficial goal of becoming better to impress others or stand better in comparison to others. As a result, even if they achieve great success, they remain assailed by self-doubt and dissatisfaction. Therefore, before we thinking of changing ourselves, we need to know why we want the change and whether it is necessary at all.

What is more important for self-transformation is the intensity of aspiration, focus and application rather than the illusion of effort. People read books of their favorite gurus or listen to their discourses to know about them, their methods of practice, their experiences, philosophy or teaching. Then they read more. They read some more again and they keep reading, even when they are nearing the end of their lives. The fact is they could have achieved more, would have accomplished the change they desired or the goals they sought, if at all they followed the first book they read with all seriousness and put it into genuine practice. Knowledge is for application. It must be made relevant to our lives. It must be lived through practice. We do not need a whole library or a thousand gurus to change our lives or accomplish self-transformation. A single book, one small piece of writing or even a few quotations will do if they become assimilated in our consciousness and put into daily practice. One need not have to read all the Vedas and the Upanishads to become spiritually enlightened. One statement from the Upanishads, such as "Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman)" will do, if we live that word every second of our existence and keep it alive and focused in our awareness.

In the same manner, if we want to be effective in the practice of concentration, we have to remember what we discussed just now. We have to focus not only on training our minds and senses, but also on our attitudes, thoughts, emotions, preferences and prejudices which interfere with our ability to concentrate. We have to put into practice whatever we know or learned rather than spending more time in knowing more of the same techniques. You do not have to pay a thousand dollars to a specialist or a meditation class to practice concentration. You can do it right here ,right now, with what you already know, using your day to day experiences and yourself as the playground and the training material. To achieve success in your life or in any field, you have to come out of the vicious cycle of seeking more and more of the same, without putting it into practice. A little knowledge is better if it is put into practice than a lot of knowledge that is never practiced.

To be interested in everything you have to be disinterested in everything

Paradoxically, if we want to be interested in everything, we have to be disinterested in everything. Detachment is the key. When we are detached, we look at the whole world with the same attitude, without expectation, without any sense of dependency or desperation. With detachment comes the attitude of sameness, which we call equanimity in the spiritual parlance. With it comes a sense of assurance and freedom. When we do things under compulsion, we push ourselves and do not really enjoy life or whatever we do. The problem here is not the task, but the attitude, That attitude we have to change, in such a way that we are not troubled by the problem of choice. We take whatever that comes, accept whatever that God gives us, we pay attention to whatever that is thrown at us and enjoy whatever we have. Physical liberation, freedom from desire, from want, from preference, precedes spiritual liberation.

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