A Clean Windshield & A View of the Human Condition
You’re driving down the road, just relaxed in the car, mind drifting.
You make a right turn.
“Holy crap!” you exclaim, “I can’t see anything.”
As you stare at the setting sun, you realize your windshield is not only pitted with age and use, it’s also horrendously filthy.
The Goal Of Yoga
Sometimes life’s like that. We’re humming along, mind floating. We think we’re looking at things head-on, only to suddenly get a stunningly clear view that puts things into perspective.
Often these perspective-shifting events occur at one end of the spectrum or the other: the joy of a birth, the catastrophe of illness. But if we pay attention, they come in smaller, more subtle forms, too.
This is the goal of yoga. To help us see more clearly. To establish our self-awareness. To refine our vision so we know when the windshield is dirty, and don’t need a heart attack to make us open our eyes.
Why We Practice
In our practice, we burn away the things that cloud our vision. Physically, we heat the body, sweat and breathe deeply; it eliminates pain and brings freedom. Mentally, it makes us less distracted and more attuned to how we can align with the world in a positive way.
At a certain point, practice lifts the veil —even if only for a moment. It cleans the windshield and we begin to see more clearly.
What, Exactly, Are We Seeing?
On the outside, we notice that everything constantly changes. Seasons come and go. Hair turns grey. Relationships begin and end.
Underneath the transient, though, is stability. There’s an unchanging framework that supports what’s always shifting.
In yoga, both of these energies, the ephemeral and the unwavering, are considered sacred.
Two Halves of the Whole
What doesn’t change is associated with masculine energy. Stability. Spacious emptiness. Unlimited potential. Formlessness. That which we sense is there but cannot see. Shiva is the icon of the unwavering.
What is manifest as the world and is constantly changing is encoded with feminine energy. Creation. Embodiment. Birthing possibility. Tangible things. The Goddess Shakti represents this.
In yoga philosophy, Shiva and Shakti are two equal aspects of One God.
When our vision is clear, we see both Shiva and Shakti, and how we might be leaning towards one or the other of those energies in the moment.
We know magic, even though we can’t explain it. We recognize the beauty of the sunset, even though it’s totally different each night. We acknowledge this and feel a touch of the Divine mirrored outwardly, but felt within.
When our vision is clear, we experience yoga, or union.
The Human Condition
As humans, we easily get the impermanent confused with that which is always changing. Classically, this is known as avidya, or ignorance.
When we identify with our transient state, the shell which is our body, our possessions, our career (just to name a few), we create suffering for ourselves.
When we fight change, for instance resisting the aging process, we create suffering.
Avidya muddies the windshield. The mind becomes heavy with feelings of loneliness and disconnection.
What To Do?
First, remember it’s normal to have confusion, to mistake the shell for the truth and get caught up in what’s ephemeral. Don’t get upset at yourself for it.
Second, the shell, what some would call the ego, is not a negative aspect of ourselves. This outer layer—the part of us that can chameleon to fit different needs—is really just our unique expression of Consciousness. Without our individuality the world would be pretty boring and grey. We’d also have trouble learning and adapting if we just stayed stagnant.
Third, keep practicing! Let go of identification and never give up.
Finding Ourselves in the Matrix
Lastly, when we get confused, there is a simple way to connect with either the unwavering or the transient and know where we are in the moment.
When meditating, ask,“Who is having this experience?” the answer is the unwavering part of ourselves. Shiva. If the witness presence shows up, you know you are connected to the stable underpinnings of your Consciousness.
If we ask, “What am I experiencing?” the answer connects us to the part of ourselves that changes daily. Shakti. When you feel bound up with emotion, feeling, memory or experience, then you know you are more connected to the side of yourself that is embodied and undergoing transformation.
Neither answer is better than the other. They are equal. It’s just a matter of seeing clearly…