I have two windows overlooking the street in front of my house and woods beyond. They face the east, and in the morning I can watch the sun rise, the bare trees dark against a glowing background of rich pinks and blues. I love this view. The left window is clear. The right is cloudy. As my eyes move from left to right, the street, woods and sky are the same, but my view is distorted.
Patanjali identifies “avidya” as one cause of suffering and the root of the other causes. It is variously interpreted as lack of awareness or ignorance, particularly in relation to ourselves. Our view of ourselves can be distorted by the disturbances in our heart-mind–”citti vritti.” By learning to quiet those disturbances, we can see ourselves–our true selves–more clearly. In this way yoga practice polishes the glass through which we see ourselves. As we become more skillful, self-study with friendliness and compassion not only provides insight into our own thoughts and emotions, but also to those of the people around us.
It’s true. Reality can be really painful. My favorite response is avoidance. What’s yours? But when I’m through with all the kicking, screaming, denial and elaborate schemes to run away (“You’re going to miss me when I’m gone!), when it’s just me and the truth, I feel the knot in my stomach loosen, tension leave my neck and shoulders and finally, breath fill my lungs again.
On the flip side, acknowledging the truth can open your heart to joy and connection to the world around you–the real world.
Seeing clearly is handy whether your gaze turns inward or out. What clouds your vision?
PS if you liked the mantra, “Om Asatoma,” you should check out Deva Premal’s album, Into Silence.
“Salutations. Take us from the false to the truth From the darkness to light From poison to nectar.”