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The Method is to Know the Mind

June 8, 2010

A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya

Oh, is that all there is?

Welcome to Lesson Two where “the method is to know the mind,” as Swami Satyananda so succinctly puts it in his essay The Root Cause of Tension (Topic 7, Lesson 2, p. 58). He continues, ” We have to explore our own mind and come face to face with these subconscious mental impressions. This requires both time and effort.”

And how is that effort undertaken? We must begin with relaxation. The practice of yoga asana and proper breathing help a practitioner to alleviate physical tension, which in turn frees her to address the root of those tensions that invariably originate in the mind.  “The root cause [of tension] lies in the mind. The cause lies with conflicts and fears which are embedded in the subconscious mind and whose nature we are not aware of” (Topic 7, Lesson 2, p. 58). Here’s the catch: When we find ourselves caught in that vicious circle of skimming the turbulent surface of the mind we remain in a fairly high state of stress and tension, we seek a solution, a medicine, a method to alleviate that discomfort but too often we seek outside ourselves and end up ultimately only contributing to the storm. However, without a modicum of relaxation we are not able to delve deeper into the mind in order to address those impressions (samskara) that cause the violence on the surface and so we remain agitated, tense, skimming along the surface. Doggy paddling! Working simply on not drowning rather than enjoying a life (and mindset) that carries on swimmingly.

And so the method is to know the mind. Of course, we must learn first to relax but from early on in the practice it is useful to remind ourselves that if our aim is indeed to cultivate peace of mind and to be the masters of our own minds then from the start we must incorporate reflection, self-inquiry, and observation into our practice. In short, we have the capacity to reprogram our own minds but it requires systematic effort. To this end, Swami Satyananda Saraswati-ji offers ten “codes for mental programming” (Topic 7, Lesson 2, p. 61). Here, I will include a brief description of each. I hope you will find these codes useful in your practice as you work to achieve deeper states of relaxation through which you are enabled to weed out the splinters that cause you suffering and plant seeds for what you choose to manifest; for example, a consistent and sincere practice.

[All text contained in double quotations is excerpted from the Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya (pp. 61-63).]

Code 1: Make a consistent effort to accept others unconditionally and recognize that just like you and me others are operating under the influence of their own mental conditioning.

Code 2: “Accept yourself….Accept your limitations. But at the same time feel the need to clean the mind of its conflicts. It is our inability to accept ourselves that causes so much anguish in life. Amen. Grace? May I have some more please?

Code 3: Observe yourself and make an effort to identify your habit patterns: thinking patterns, emotional patterns, and behavioral patterns. When you feel a sense of dissatisfaction, restlessness, or discontent rather than look outside yourself for a magic-pill, simply look at the feeling and observe it. You might even ask, ‘What is that?’ You will be surprised how much becomes apparent when we simply direct our attention to new places.

Code 4: “View the whole world and everyone in it as being your teacher.” Specifically, learn to recognize your hot-button issues as they typically will point to your deepest attachments and hang-ups.

Code 5: Where are you now? Most of us, Swami Tyagananda-ji has said, are never in the present moment. We are either fretting over the past or planning for the future. Code 5 calls on us to make every effort to be here now. In the moment. Good luck with that and please wish me luck too.

Code 6: I am not the body, I am not the mind, I am consciousness. That is the truth that Code 6 entreats us to fully inhabit. That is, “most of us identify ourselves completely with our minds and bodies. We ignore the consciousness that lies behind everything we do.” Heck, what’s the point of working over the mind if we should remember that we are not the mind or the body? Simply, think of the Sufi image of polishing the mirror of ones heart in order to better reflect the image of the Divine. The more littered the mind, the more distracted we are from the source. We can begin to dive beneath that choppy surface by cultivating the observer, that is, by recognizing and tuning into our consciousness.

Code 7: “Try to be more open towards other people. Express your true feelings as much as possible.” Swami-ji explains that the more we act and pretend to be something we are not, the more tension we create in ourselves. In essence, the degree to which our words, thoughts, and behaviors are at odds determines our level of tension.

Code 8: EVERYONE has the capacity to achieve higher levels of awareness. EVERYONE. We should try to see this potential in each other at all times, “no matter how difficult it may be.”

Code 9: We typically avoid that which we need most. Have you noticed this about yourself? I’ve noticed that if I don’t follow a very specific asana program, for example, that I will have a tendency to avoid the postures I need most. Therefore, Code 9 asks us NOT to avoid difficult situations but rather to embrace them and ask ‘What is it that you are trying to teach me?’

Code 10: This one is old school and very familiar: Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. That is, rather than reacting to another’s behavior, take the time to remind yourself of Code 1 and remember that we are all (most of us indeed!) operating according to our own mental programming. Remember that what might be commonsense for you could be unheard of to another. Don’t try to enforce your worldview on others. Recognize that your ways are not the only ways.

Well, my friends, good luck. I hope you will find these 10 codes useful in your practice.

I’d love to hear from you! Please share your ideas in the comment box and talk back to the blog. ;-)

  1. Excellent very useful and worthy information

  2. Antony permalink

    We live in a time where there is so much information out there on better living, living closer to one’s own self, living closer to the Divine, seeking enlightenment!

    Take for instance the book of Don Miguel Ruiz – The Four Agreements and the Fifth Agreement ! There are so many truths in there!

    I have nearly read every book by Paramahansa Yogananda.

    Furthermore I have read Babaji and the 18 Siddha Kriya Yoga Tradition. I am trying to study Kriya Yoga as taught by Swami Sadhanananda Giri. I can only do a few postures. I have studied many ways, but the heart tends to stay on an eternal quest!

    But for that split second of oneness with All, I live for that again!

    Is there a Guru out there that I still will find?

    Probably when the time is right!

    • Hi, Antony, Thanks for your comment. I haven’t read the Ruiz book you mentioned, I’m going to check it out! Take care–Kelly

  3. Ramesh permalink

    Very worthwhile.

    When I was younger, I meditated every day, even if sometimes it was only 10 minutes. Now I meditate only a few times a month – it is so busy with a young child, work, starting a business and all.

    But we need to make time for what is important.

    • Hi, Ramesh, I know what you mean. Surely, many people can identify with your comment! I try to remind myself that when I do make time everyday–even if it’s only ten minutes like you said–to practice, I am more productive and peaceful throughout the rest of that day. Basically, the logic goes, BECAUSE I am so busy, I must make time everyday for my practice! Of course…with deadlines looming I find myself sometimes losing that argument…

      Take care–

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