Who, exactly, are you?

While I’d love to meet anyone taking the time to visit– hello, and here’s a hug– I’m less interested in the people we say we are and obsessed with this idea that we are not our thoughts. All this, ‘I’m tired,’ ‘I’m lazy,’ ‘I’m worried,’ ‘I’m going bananas,’ initiates with the preliminary fixture, ‘I am.’ I’m obsessed with this condition precedent. And anything that is my obsession becomes your reading material. You’re welcome.

Through the ruckus of my internal mob and resistance– vive l’me– I occasionally hear the words of my teachers, and the dead guys who interpret Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the even deader, though possibly reborn, guys who passed along the Vedas. A good bunch, all of them, sage-like but a mite dry. Sometimes, even, dusty. And not just due to decay. I’m not saying that wisdom seeking isn’t an adventure; I’m saying the adventure can be arduous.

Quick and dirty background: most folks who do asana think the postures pave the path to yoga. They’ll cruise a few rest stops here and there for breath and meditation. Maybe do a little good work to satisfy their karma. But this physical practice is really just the prep work. Folks may debate this, but here’s my position: we hone our bodies through asana to begin the process of settling our minds. Yoga postures ask that we move mindfully through space. Our attention becomes one-centered, hopefully, as we explore the boundaries of every pose. And if not completely one-centered, well, close enough in fleeting moments.

The healthy body’s our ride. Nothing more than a soft and juicy vehicle we’d like to go the distance. The mind: that’s the driver. And the pot-holed, winding road is yoga. The path, I might interpret for the new age folks in white pajamas. Sometimes the driver flies into a rage. He’s sure everyone on the road but him is an asshole. Sometimes, the driver gets lost. She knows she took a wrong turn but she can’t remember when. Both drivers are looking around, distracted by billboards, luxury cars, road conditions, traffic accidents.  To slaughter the metaphor: we’re just a bunch of truckers hauling our asses across land we barely see. Unless, suddenly, we become aware. Our mind becomes one-centered. Cue trucker horn.

Here’s an idea that Eckhart Tolle calls ‘observing the thinker.’ We learn to identify our thoughts as experiences, and then to distinguish them from our nature. Just as we may temporarily become cold when the window is open, we are not always cold. We may transiently feel anxious because we’re focusing on a future we can’t see, but we are not anxiety. What we are is people capable of feeling worry, or pain, or joy, or grief, or drama, or hot, or cold. What we are is a person who perceives. We aren’t what we perceive.

Whoa.

So, who, exactly, are you? All those sages (and, ahem, a therapist or two) suggest that observing thoughts– noting our emotions and manipulating them like so: ‘oh, I’m feeling sad as I think of the crap decisions I’ve made but I’m not actually a sad person who always makes crap decisions’– that we start to let go of the anchor of these perceptions. They become fleeting. Like the roadside distractions. They pass by and disappear in the rearview mirror. You may even start to notice that you have patterns of perception: ‘I’m so bad with money’ becomes ‘I’ve experienced some loss of money’ becomes ‘oh, that did happen but it’s not actually who I am.’ And you’ve just disarmed another billboard with a shitty self-limiting message. Well done. Now you know those billboards aren’t selling anything you need.

What do you think? Am I wacky with this? Let me answer that for you. I am. Occasionally wacky. But still. I am. Keep on truckin’, my friends. On whatever road you need to take.

 

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