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YOGA MATTERS -Knowing the Mind

Mar 27, 2013

Knowing The Mind

For the student, through the process of:

1)    Overcoming Cultural Tendencies

2)    Recognition of the role of the mind, how to learn and how to be a student (Sadhana Chatushtaya)

3)    Recognition of a need for assistance in learning it and how to tell a proper teacher from a false one

4)    Familiarity with the mind and it’s basic workings and terminology

5)    Familiarity with the deep samskaras through extensive meditation and yogic practices and philosophy

Can lead to a deep sense of satisfaction, meaning and peace in the mind of the student, even while working through the various phases of the process.


Every conduct on the part of the student in all four phases, as guided by a teacher, is oriented toward the removal of the modifications of the mind- even the goal to remove modifications must go away in the end for the process to be complete.


The Mechanics Of The Mind

The mind is a misunderstood tool. It’s nature is inert, subtle and shallow; only existing to create thoughts. It is merely a thought creation machine. It’s main power is that thoughts are the fastest things in the universe, and indeed our entire manifested universe exists powerfully through thought alone. This gives the mind the appearance of life and the appearance of power, but this power is borrowed from the unchangeable, timeless, infinite Self. In this Self, or Brahman, is the true nature of every aspirant. This nature is called the Atman; or, a whole portion of That whole.


Even so, the mind must be managed, just as the body must be managed, disciplined and cared for. Similarly, the mind has an anatomy, and a shared ‘way it works’ that cuts across generations of students. This is the subject itself of a great deal of learning and specific information that I will not go into here.


Learning how to manage the mind and its integral relationship with the body is a primary focus of Yoga for the beginner. In this realm, we need guiding principles to help connect us from our manifest, embodied selves to the timeless, infinite and unchanging Brahman/Atman nature we truly are. This Brahman is what the right brain can see when it has been properly trained.


Principles are practices and perspectives, freely available to all, that do not change with time. They cannot be broken, but one can break oneself against them.


Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha is a principle that mandates a respectful and contextual link to the other principles outlined by Patanjali. Principles can be said to be mechanical, or, “how it works”.


Since we are regarding ourselves as being “with” minds, just as we are supernal beings “with” bodies, then it naturally follows that we can note a great deal of interference from the mind when it comes to improving ourselves spiritually.


Mind Interference

I notice this in my 8 Week Beginner Class when we, in Week Three, begin to ask the students to recite the steps of the sun salutation as they do them. We do them quickly, so it’s challenging. They have heard these steps repeated MANY times by that point during the warm-up and yet their bodies fail to cooperate any longer smoothly with their mind operating. During this class it requires for my part, considerable encouragement and coaching by me to allow the mind to stop interfering.


This is a learned response to so much rote learning used in the English method of instruction. Gurukula-style teaching methods allow the mind of the student to accept Reality as it is presenting itself without judging it.


This often results in a wonderful shift in understanding for students about how connected their minds are to this “self” they had previously identified with. Successive practices reinforce this realization and gradually strip off these identifications again and again, resulting in a transcendental awareness of the nature of consciousness itself, as experienced by the aspirant, and slowly “the change you wish to see in the world” has come about.


An important implication of Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha is that our minds literally create our reality. Reality itself is available to all and is beyond even the nature of principles: timeless and ever-present everywhere in manifest and un-manifest ways. Principles like this one reveal themselves to us, as yogis, in the fabric of that reality we have slowly transformed into and at the level we can understand it. One must act with urgency to the call of the timeless, the unchanging and infinite Self, as patient as it is.


- An interest in all things computers led circuitously to DurgaDas (Regis) Chapman beginning on the path of Yoga in California. He is a 500+ hour RYT in the Sivananda lineage teaching in Nanaimo, BC at the Silent Motion Vancouver Island Yoga Vedanta Centre and is reachable at or at


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