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Mental Rat Race

You can’t talk about yoga/meditation without talking about the mind. In all of its dualistic glory, it is the master of ceremony of life as a human being. The mind can be our greatest asset and biggest challenge…sometimes within moments of each other. It’s always there- choosing, judging, challenging, assessing and protecting our lives…moment to moment.

True to its nature, the mind is pleased as desires are met. It loves stimulation such as reading magazines, internet games and puzzles…and more. The mind enjoys observing other’s problems and desires by watching TV shows and movies. – It loves “entertainment”; when it is occupied, it is happy.

It is our mind that takes us outside of ourselves on the search for happiness. “If I can just get this job I’d be so happy!” “Oh, I’ll feel great once I have that house…car…lover….designer outfit….and _______” You can fill in the blank; the list goes on and on. It prods us to keep going until the desired object(s) is achieved. Then, for a short time, it stops wanting. In those spaces, where the desire stops, we experience satisfaction. “Ah, I did it!” or “Whoo, I got it!”

Of course, that feeling wanes and, before long, the next desire is born, and it’s up and at ‘em! Out we go for the chase. But, the chase is exhausting; the endless activities wear us out. The body becomes tired, but that mind keeps pushing! More thoughts, more desires. Some call it “the rat race”. Of course, as Lily Tomlin said: “The only one who wins the rat race is the rat.”

You can’t really fault your mind; it is perfectly designed to “want”; its one of our most important survival mechanisms. The problem is we identify our mind as ‘who we are’, and become totally self-serving with desire chasing. This is a common challenge called “human”.

How many times have you reflected on your personal “rat race” and thought, “Isn’t there a better way? There has to be more to life than this!” Each time our family vacations at the beach, my sister says: “If feel fantastic here! If I could bottle this feeling and sell it, I’d become a millionaire!” That “feeling” …what is it?

Remember when you were a child? True happiness and contentment ‘happened’. It was easy and natural. Simple things like staring at the sky, feeling the wind, smelling flowers and grass could trigger the “feeling”. No worries or fears. Remember?

Where is the feeling? I asked a few friends to describe their feeling of joy and contentment. Here is what they said:

  • “The feeling wells up, starting from my toes and tingles all the way to the top of my head.”

  • “It feels warm in my belly.” “It makes me laugh or cry.”

  • “It feels like my heart grows bigger than my body; I am inside my heart instead of my heart inside me.”

All of these descriptions have one thing in common, they arise from inside our own body… not the thing that caused it outside.

Yoga teaches that true contentment is already inside, like a flowing river. Achieving and acquiring isn’t necessary to access the real river of contentment. It is a gem that yoga calls “Your True Nature” or “The Self” and is independent of, yet can include, the desires themselves. It is ancient, infinite and omnipresent; present before ‘the things’. In other words, you can “skip the middle man” and cultivate this Pure contentment or the state of “Yoga”.

My cousin’s family was farmers. While growing up, I had the privilege of many weekend farm experiences. One of my most vivid memories was the fresh milk at breakfast. Having come from the cow just moments before, it was creamy, rich and tasted delicious. When I returned home and back to ‘milk from a carton’, it was apparent to me that the milk I drank from the carton was not nearly as good as the milk from the farm. Adding from the “outside” did not make the natural milk better. Milk is sweetest in its purest state.

Our capacity for contentment is much the same…sweetest in its purest state. It feels good to feel it mixed with achievements, new things, but it is greatest when it arises in its purest form- yoga. Like raw milk before the processing and additives, our capacity for contentment is greater when it is not mixed with outside desires. It is so rich in its purest form, experienced for no apparent reason. No fear, no desire. The things appear and disappear; the state of yoga does not. It is the river; the purest form of peace untouched, unfiltered.

The feeling of happiness is alive inside of you, rising and falling like puppets, your mind the puppeteer. Yoga teaches there is a contentment that is more refined than the one brought on by the job, the car, the partner or the clothes. The “You” that is eternal presence; divine; the pure milk of All Being.

To personally and directly experience this state of Yoga is the birthright of every human being and the most important journey of life. Yoga practice and study provides that map and pathway to that experience.

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