Moving Past Superficial Relationships with Information

by on August 22, 2012 · 0 comments

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You can’t make tea by dipping a tea bag in hot water. It must sit for some time, become re-hydrated and then the effects of steeping begin to appear. The essence of the tea leaves and the water become inseparable.  As  the strength of tea is proportional to the length the leaves are steeped, the strength of yoga is proportional to how long you steep in the knowledge of your practice. When we are beginners, our consciousness is exposed to new knowledge, and we become acquainted with the superficial aspects of it. We hear words, but they are simply representations of what lies at the causal realm.  Like making a strong cup of tea, we must become immersed in attained knowledge for a period of time before the wisdom of our practice becomes inseparable from our being.

In order for knowledge to work for us, we must apply it in the experiential realm. We often hear and repeat aphorisms as they relate to a given situation, but when they apply to us in effect, we have moved from identification with the representation of the knowledge into observing the knowledge in the causal realm. Knowledge in the superficial realm prepares us for a method of understanding an observation should we encounter it, then our understanding moves deeper as we witness this knowledge in the causal and experiential realm.  We are told “The candle flame is hot”, but until you hold a finger above the flame, and feel the sensation of heat upon the skin, observe the involuntary recoil of the hand, you’re only associated with the representation of that knowledge. After experiencing a burned palm, you have causal and experiential knowledge of the candle. The flame is hot. It can burn you. One must exercise caution. As you move from experiential knowledge of your first encounter with a candle flame, and become accustomed to using candles frequently, you become steeped in the knowledge that “The candle flame is hot” leading to the knowledge of proper wick length, safe candle holders, appropriate candle placement, etc.

This is a very rudimentary example of moving through the layers of knowledge, but it’s an early encounter most of us have had.  This occurrence at a physical level happens quickly. We have words, physical sensation, pain, which is an effective learning tool, and visual queues. Deeper, more complicated philosophical knowledge may not quicken so effectively. We may hear and even convey knowledge without ever having experienced the first causal layer of it. Or we may feel that we have experienced the full spectrum of the knowledge when we have only scratched the surface.

Being steeped in even the most simple knowledge that you attain will lead to deeper understanding.

A very helpful piece of experiential knowledge that comes from a yoga practice is breath awareness. Most teachers remind their students to “Stay with the breath” or “Focus on your breath” or simply “breathe”.  When this seemingly oversimplified cue is followed and a student uses ujjayi breathing throughout each yoga class over the course of months or years, that advice becomes an integral part of the awareness process.   Yogis quickly learn they can keep their mind in a place of inner calm by remaining aware of the breath. Becoming strong in remaining with the breath and keeping your awareness inside is knowledge in action (on or off the mat). The  student being steeped in this knowledge moves into a higher level of understanding where this integral aspect of yoga becomes inseparable from one’s practice and eventually one’s being.

As you develop a strong physical practice, you may find that the demand for steeping in the knowledge of your practice increases. Sometimes this demand is indicated by plateaus in a practice or encountering insurmountable obstacles. We often have our sights set on a higher goal, but there is always room for improvement with what is right in front of us. I never consider myself above taking a beginners class or attending introductory workshops. Even with knowledge that is familiar, newness can continuously be extracted from it when it is experienced. I encourage everyone as a student of yoga to sit with something you feel you know extremely well, investigate it with a child like curiosity, allow it to feel new to you, and experience it for the first time again. Integrate this reborn experience into your practice.  Allow the tea of the mind to become steeped in the waters of your practice.

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