Rather than go to yoga and try to block out the day’s thoughts, we are better to go to yoga and push the thoughts out of our minds by fully involving ourselves in our physical experience. Yoga is when we stop being thought-aware and start being body-conscious.
Where we do it is like a sanctuary, where we can forget our ego-selves so that we can instead spend time with our true selves instead. It is an opportunity to be. And it is important for us to develop a strong familiarity with that form of presence so that we we’re more aware to watch for our opportunities for it during our day.
If we find it challenging to stay mindful then it often helps to divide our day into sections. For instance, when we rise in the morning, rather than doing a bunch of thinking about our entire day, we can consciously avoid that in favour of just planning the next brief segment of time.
We can choose our action —making breakfast, having a shower, getting ready for our morning run; whatever it is— and then simply do each thing fully and completely, with all of our consciousness present, as we have practiced during yoga or meditation.
We can’t do that with a bunch of thoughts tangled around our actions like the dust-cloud that follows the Pigpen character from Peanuts. Just like someone in yoga class, we must simply invest our consciousness in Being. We must stop talking to ourselves and simply be in our bodies. At that point our minds have fully dissolved into our yoga movement or pose.
In this way we can even turn making coffee into a yoga-like experience. As we pour the beans into the grinder or the grounds into the filter, we can stay body-aware as the weight of the bag both shifts forward and gets lighter as the pouring happens.
Likewise, when we pour our morning coffee, we can consciously note the weight of the cup changing as we pour the liquid in. As we stir in the sugar, we can notice how the tone of the clinking of the spoon against the cup will change in pitch until the sugar is either fully dissolved or the coffee is completely saturated, at which point the tone of the clinking will even off.
People often assume they cannot develop these skills because at first we will lose track of the present moment and we do run into our thinking very frequently. Part of why it feels that way is that we’re watching our thoughts more closely, but bottom line: it’s a habit we’ve built and reinforced since we were about three or four years old, so we really should give ourselves some time to get used to having a quiet mind. No one goes to the gym expecting to look entirely different in a week.
Staying conscious is much easier than a physical workout. It uses the same amount of energy to be aware as to invest in self-talk, and stopping it isn’t so much difficult as it’s tricky, because it requires us to make leap of imagination regarding our beliefs about reality. But despite how grand the destination is, we can still get to that grand insight through a lot of little steps.
That’s why it’s helpful to divide life into segments of consciousness. If we got lost in our thoughts while driving to our jog, then at the park we make a mental shift so that we’re only running. We can just invest ourselves in the running motion and leave the car-thoughts behind.
In these states of mind we wordlessly choose each footstep. We feel the entire run, there is almost no separation between ourselves and the place we are running in. If the car-thoughts invade our minds we can sub-segment and do our best not to think until the next tree, or the next block, or until you pass that parked car….
And if we do self-talk, fine. That’s not surprising. Again, we’re in training. No one ever nails this 100%. Even the Dalai Lama is just practicing. So we can just create a new section and go quiet again until we reach it.
Sometimes we’ll finish yoga or a run and we’ll have talked to ourselves most of the way. Sometimes we’ll finish elated that we could feel we were fully conscious of our actual experience without the yakking comments and judgments of ego, but even in those good cases it’s important not to carry those ideas into the next pose or segment of a run.
We don’t want to make the mistake of achieving silence during a pose and then silently spend the next two poses only feeling good because we’re talking to ourselves about how good you’re doing. That’s ego-pleasure, that’s not peace.
No matter how we do it, the nice thing about this exercise is that it teaches us to regularly check in with our personal thinking. That’s all an ego’s made of so it’s important to only employ word-based thinking when we absolutely need to, rather than having our minds habitually self-talk to us about things that we often can’t do anything about.
We can all take today and divide it into sections and do our best to think as little as we can between each marker. If we do this earnestly for even one month, we will become enormously better at having a quiet mind. And once we have a quiet mind, it soon becomes a receiver rather than a transmitter and that is when we awaken to a more vibrant world.
Each day, each moment, we must re-awaken ourselves. We must stay conscious not of the words in our head, but on the experiences that are flowing through our consciousness. That awareness explains why so many people who take the course talk about becoming less clumsy. They aren’t really less clumsy —they’re more aware.
Now, the next important thought to think today is: what is our next segment marker going to be? Because if we do it mindfully, it’s amazing how far we can travel in a yoga pose.
Let’s all enjoy our day —consciously.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.