Everything starts with ourselves. Wouldn’t it be good to realise that self-love is an emotional filter for our world, our own unique individualised perception? Knowing yourself means we can care for others because we are self-aware first.
How do we understand ourselves better and can yoga help
Self awareness, the notion of the “self” and the inquiry to what we are, is central to yoga. Yoga could be described as a humanist study of our very nature. But are we better equipped to understand ourselves, and therefore love ourselves today, than when an orthodox Hindu philosophical tradition recorded concepts and beliefs; 1800 – 2400 years ago?
Origins of understanding & self-love
There are few yogi’s in our culture who have not heard about or read something from the Bhagavad Gita. I can’t imagine a yoga teacher training programme, not including a study of this epic poem. After all, identifying ourselves within a framework of ancient tradition suits our human condition to belong to something greater than us. In turn, it is common for yoga teachers to reference from this vast Vedic literature; on all subjects including love and self-love. (Gita on Love)
Lessons of life from the Gita
One of the first lessons Arjuna receives from Krishna is to know himself. He (Krishna) explains that the material world you perceive with your five senses is not the true expression of reality. It is an illusion, albeit a convincing one. Your ultimate essence is pure spirit, pure timeless awareness.
It is independent of the good or bad opinion of others, feels above no one and beneath no one, and is fearless of all challenges. When you lose sight of this critical understanding, you forget your real identity. You take the impermanent roles you play too seriously and feel disconnected from the source of your power. Krishna reminds Arjuna:
Lessons from the 21st Century
On the front page of my blog I make a pretty bold statement, “That yoga is your awareness”.
I have been on a mission to understand the nature of what makes me; me, from the earliest days I started yoga. With a hand on heart can I tell you I know this better now? Am I any wiser and more importantly now, do I identify myself as self-love?
In my yoga classes, I try to get my students to be at ease with themselves. Frequently we start with a question of how do they feel today? I’m interested to know how those feelings change during class. The level of attention they have at any one moment is perceptible in how they move when they follow instructions. I would be lost in an Ashtanga Vinyasa class. For me, its got to slow down enough, so they feel whats going on.
But what of Consciousness?
The sense of you, regardless of which yoga pose you might be in, how quietly you sit, is your consciousness. Uniquely you are aware of yourself, even if you think you are not. So does focusing your attention on your feelings and emotions through external instruction help you forget yourself enough that at the end of the class you can say; “hey yeah I feel much better now”.
The feeling of me
Antonia Damasio, one of the world’s leading experts on the neurophysiology of emotions, shows in his book The Feeling Of What Happens that our consciousness, our sense of being, arises out of the development of emotions. That consciousness is conscious of the feeling, experiencing itself, the very thought of oneself.
I began seeing consciousness in terms of two players, the organism and the object, and in terms of the relationships those players hold.
He goes on to say that we as the organism are involved in relating to some object and that the object in relation is causing a change in the organism.
elucidating the biology of consciousness became a matter of discovering how the brain can construct neural patterns that map each of the two players and the relationship they hold.
In my opinion Antonio, that’s pure Advaita.
Advaita : noun: a Vedantic doctrine that identifies the individual self (atman) with the ground of reality (brahman). It is associated mainly with the Indian philosopher Shankara ( c. 788–820).
I love Advaita and the teaching of non-dualism. But is this what Damasio is pointing to; that we are feeling and that we experience ourselves through our feelings, are we able to adjust our feelings? Can we make ourselves feel better? I think we can as I alluded to before when yoga students experience themselves differently after losing a bit of the me-ness they carried into yoga. That’s why we’re all flying all over the world to go on yoga retreats these days. To find a part of ourselves or leave a piece out. But can we do that?
A world of self-love and help
I found this article by Dr Margaret Paul recently about self-love pretty interesting. Margaret holds a PhD in psychology and has worked in relationship therapy for a long time. She points out that to love ourselves is the first premiss for loving others. That goes without saying I hear you cry. But that elusive self we know or don’t will keep us searching for meaning until we acknowledge what we are.
For Dr Margaret Paul full article click here. Why Loving Yourself Is Vital for Wellbeing and Loving Relationships