focus

The Force is with You

 The mind is fallible. More and more this is being proven by science. Biases and cognitions which enable the mind to think quickly also disable the mind from thinking logically, rationally, and with accuracy. This is not all the time, but probably, most of the time.

            Many spiritual teachings speak to the fallibility of the mind. This is fascinating in many ways as most spiritual schools have been around for centuries and these scientific discoveries that prove the value of their teachings have only come about in recent decades. For example;

Yoga Sutra 1:8 Viparyayo Mithyananam Atadrupa Pratistham

Misconception occurs when knowledge of something is not based upon its true form.

            A simple explanation of this Sutra is to consider a time when you saw a figure in the dark that looked like a person looming creepily in the shadows. In fear perhaps you recoiled, asked someone else to awake and go look at it, grabbed something to protect yourself with, and then hid. I have done this. Then perhaps you or the someone whom you awoke turned on a light only to find it was a coat hanging just the right way with a hat and shadows dancing to create the illusion of danger. This is an exaggerated example but I think you get the picture.

            In the world of psychology and behavioral economics cognitive biases are the realms of thought that lead to deviations from good and rational judgement, i.e. lead to misconceptions. The list of currently known and confirmed cognitive biases is too long to include here, but is easy enough to research on your own if you are interested. What is interesting about this research is the evidence that it is a part of the neural wiring of the brain to make jumps that lead to error. Even more interesting is the capacity of the brain to become aware of error and reset its course to clarity.

            This is where yoga or any mindfulness practice comes in. A consistent and committed pursuit toward more mindfulness and therefore away from failures or missteps of cognition can and will lead to less misconceptions. Patanjali's sutras recommend eight steps toward this goal.

  1. Yama :  Ways of being with community
  2. Niyama :  Ways of being with self
  3. Hatha Yoga :  Asana
  4. Pranayama :  Breathing exercises, and control of prana
  5. Pratyahara :  Control or withdrawal of the senses
  6. Dharana :  Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
  7. Dhyana :  Devotion, Meditation
  8. Samadhi :  Union with the Divine/ Ultimate Liberation

            The pursuit of step eight as well as the course set by all eight steps aw a journey away from misconception and disabling cognitive biases is a life long, or even multi-lifelong journey. How many successes you achieve, or how many times you misstep along the way are easy distractions, yet not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to know yourself. To know you are human and therefore fallible and imperfect, and to also know that in the company of your imperfections you are also Divine and perfect. To live in this world of paradox, misconception, and unanswered questions, and to find peace in the midst of torrent that is life. This is the ultimate aim as well as the gift of the work. 

With Love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy!

Genevieve

Distraction, Discipline, and Freedom

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This afternoon I find myself seeking distraction to avoid doing the work, putting thoughts into words, making sense of an oftentimes senseless existence in this weekly exercise of writing. This isn't a new experience, I have been avoiding since I was a child, especially on days like today, clouds hanging low and grey. I know I am not alone this afternoon in my desire to get back into bed with a good book and cup of hot tea. My distracting behaviors lead me to question what I am really getting from a half an hour dive into a Facebook feed that shares very little important information. I question if the past time of trolling my news feed will ever really serve me. More often than not the answer I return to is no, yet I continue, it's a form of addiction. As I near ever closer to a year of non-smoking in reflection of a very long lived habit, I honor that all my addictions are just forms of distraction, just places to put my attention allowing me to avoid the work that has to be done. As a young girl I was especially good at this, back then the habit was called day dreaming, of which I was accused by many teachers all throughout grade school. By the time I got to high school there was a constant greek chorus being recited by my father, "get some discipline." Discipline became a word of dread, as did the action it referred to, and in adolescent fashion I refused, following an inner dialogue that demanded discipline would take the freedom and pleasure from my life.

Lately I recognize that despite my egos best efforts to exonerate me from any form of discipline, somehow a seed of steadfast focus took hold and without distraction I have arrived at a stance of understanding the value and the freedom discipline gives as its reward. Many things take part in the grand tale of each of our lives unfolding and I know a big part of this volume of my life has to do with my ever present desire to experience the world standing on my hands. Yoga, arriving, returning, deepening my practice, returning again no matter how I felt, or feel, and my desire to invert in every variation, has amazingly, and respectfully brought not only discipline into my life, but layers and layers of freedom. Discipline of skill in action using principles of alignment in my asana practice has enabled me the opportunity to experience the fulfilling feeling of physical freedom as I refine the architecture of my inverted body. Discipline in my physical body was only the seed from which more discipline has arisen and in turn has created more and more freedom in all aspects of my life.  Such as the great discipline it takes for me to mindfully meet life with an open heart and a willingness to love from that heart without condition, rather than react with cruelty and judgement to an oftentimes cruel, judgmental, and senseless world. Discipline is also the tool that I wielded when I stopped distracting myself by lighting the cigarettes ten or more times a day almost a year ago, and closed the Facebook feed this afternoon. After acknowledging all of this I have to note that discipline is nothing without focus, without intention. Without a goal there is no direction to work toward, any goal is good enough, even and especially when that goal seems absurd or minimal like standing on ones hands, for the goal is the seed from which great freedom sprouts.

Whatever it is we desire, is to some degree or another attainable with focus and discipline.  Of course there are varying degrees of limitations, however the most limiting factor will inevitably always be our own limiting beliefs of ourselves. These limiting beliefs in essence are just a form of distraction, which we place in our paths toward satisfaction and success to avoid the hard work of hurdling the challenges that are naturally partnered with steadfast discipline.

Discipline essentially is an assertion of ones will power, which can be used to subvert destructive addictions like smoking, and enhance personal behaviors that are self serving like standing on ones hands. I personally have chosen to write these weekly blogs as an exercise in discipline. I would like to think that they speak to the audience who reads them, that my words touch a place of truth and heartfelt meaning that carries beyond my exercise, however in the end the exercise is enough. In leaping over the hurdle of my avoidance today, and every sunday I feel gratified, even if the feeling is only a small portion of personal satisfaction. By stepping into the work, into the practice of discipline, and turning away from the avoidance, in the moment of completion of the work I am free from the guilt that dances with my distracted mind as I troll the Facebook feed on my phone.

In the end, I find that by satisfying the efforts of my discipline the distraction has its place of honor too, and in that, snuggled nicely into my bed, I invite good entertainment to speak to my heart words of truth, on purpose or deciphered by my own beautiful mind.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving,

Genevieve