In elementary school, I remember asking my mother why my so-called “friend” convinced my other “friends” to run away from me on the playground like I had cooties. That was my first taste of rejection; a major hit to my ego. From this first micro-trauma my brain naturally searched for patterns, which led me to believe that they didn’t like me because I was Asian and they were Caucasian. Of course, this was later confirmed when I went to a sleep over and the leader of our girl squad told me that she couldn’t be friends with me because her grandma didn’t like Japanese people. On another occasion my mom recounts a time after watching Jesus Christ Superstar, a 1970’s rock musical, when I asked her, “How come they sing so well?” My parents didn’t know what to say to 5 year old me, so my dad responded, “Because they have soul.” My tiny little brain thought having soul meant being black so I looked at the color of my skin and compared it to my mothers. I said, “Look mom, I have more soul that you.” Although, my parents got a good laugh and a story to embarrass me with, I was already identifying the differences between “you” and “I” based on experience.
From the moment we are born, our brain is wired to search for patterns. With these patterns we learn to characterize ourselves different from others based on our skin color, body type, age, race, personality traits, interests, educational background, social status, successes, and failures (the list goes on). As we age we add layers and complexity to our lives based on how we identify with or without these patterns. Perhaps our first micro-trauma builds a wall of defense, our first love breaks that down, our first heartbreak builds twice the amount of layers as before, and our first job boosts our self-esteem to then break down a barrier. The causes and effects in our lives whether positive or negative continue to add and subtract as we react to each life situation. We justify our reactions based on our ahamkara or “ego.” In yoga, we identify the ego as Asmita or “false identification.” Asmita shows up like a little gremlin that attacks your thoughts, opinions, feelings, and actions. Therefore, the ego appears as an optical illusion of “me” differentiating from “you.”
We can see parallels of various life situations on our yoga mat. Perhaps we compare our practice to others, beat our bodies up just to reach a so-called destination in a pose, or get frustrated when expectations of our practice fall short. But while, we get caught up in the exterior experience of what we see we forget about the importance of how we connect and feel. We lose sight of our truth. Although, the image of yoga has changed quite a bit from its original foundation; now including modern takes on yoga from Yoga Barre to Yoga Sculpt and anywhere in between. The true goal of classical Yoga outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (the prime ancient text of Yoga) is the realization of the Purusha or true self. This goes far beyond the human “self” in which we characterize individually. Instead, this is referring to a deeper sense of cosmic self – an inner consciousness that unites us with all. If we look deeply, we can see that everything in the universe has a personality or spirit within it, whether it be the Sun, Moon, mountains, animals, plants, air, or the ocean. Scientifically speaking, all living things are made of atoms consisting of unique numbers of the same three particles – protons, neutrons, and electrons. This begins at the outermost layer of our universe, to the Sun and Moon, air, mountains, oceans, animals, critters, and even down to the tiniest microscopic bacteria. Therefore, we use yoga as a tool to come to the ultimate realization that in spite of all that makes us different we are in fact one. We can peel past the layers of our existence no matter what the cause to create a positive effect and gain a deeper sense of self that exceeds far beyond the separation of “you” or “I.”
Hi, I'm Lauren and I am here to support people to find freedom in being authentic and the power to carry that out in their lives and community. Writing is one way I like to explore that for myself. Here is my archive of reflections.