Yoga Sutra 1.4: Keep Your Head On

Big Beautiful Face Statue in Tenerife

At other times [the self appears to] assume the forms of the mental modifications.

Ok, so we know that yoga means union and that (theoretically), when we quiet the mind, we access the pure, unchanging, eternal self. If you’ve meditated a little bit, maybe you’ve begun to have glimpses of that. In that meditative state, our physical boundaries feel like they melt away as we let go of all those false identities and changeable factors. We begin to feel that we truly are all one. Hooray, yoga! We’ve reached enlightenment, and now we can stop meditating and go about our life as actualized beings, right?

Maybe not quite. For most of us, the moment we rejoin the world, we’re brought back into a game of rules and boundaries. It would be foolish not to recognize the separation between ourselves and others. One of the dangers yogis face (and fail to acknowledge too often) is thinking that because we’ve had a few glimpses of something bigger than ourselves that we are now enlightened. Sometimes, yogis are just like evangelicals, going around spouting off about their experience as though it applies to everyone. After all, if we’re all one, then I should be able to understand and speak for anyone, right? Wrong again.

On a grand scale, yes, we’re all one, all made of the same stuff, all the same energy, all from the same source — no matter what name you assign to that source. But in our day-to-day lives, we all have different experiences. We have different lives, histories, knowledge and understandings. Think of it like a card game — I can’t see your cards and you can’t see mine. If I make an incorrect assumption about the cards in your hand, I lose the game. Sure, all the cards come from the same deck, but it’s a pretty extensive deck, and there’s just no way for us to know all the cards in play.

In other words, try to keep a sane perspective. Know in your heart that you are indeed connected to everyone and everything in the universe, but keep your head on and your eyes open.

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