The two selves

I have been spending a lot of time by myself in asana, meditation, and thought this week. It has been beneficial for me. For the past week, I’ve practiced everyday, meditated most of those days, slept a lot, and started to reconnect with my Self.


Patanjali said that there were two selves; the True Self or the spirit, and the mind. In an article by Kate Holcombe in Yoga Journal this month (May 2010), Holcombe says to think of the True Self as the boss, and the mind as the assistant. What would happen, she asks, if the assistant acted as though she ran the place, without ever checking with the boss at all? I’ve found that when my mind takes over for my true self, I feel chaotic, ungrounded, unsure of myself and my abilities as a person, unconfident in my path and alone. Or, I can feel on a mission to the point of blindness, forgetful of the moral or need the fueled it, like the thought or goal has shushed everything else in my space and I have a one track mind. Usually, when I achieve the mind’s goal and the white noise is gone, I usually feel defeated, guilty, or astonished that I could let the mind run the place for so long.

In Sutra 11.23, translated by Holcombe, it states, The inability to discern between the temporary fluctuating mind and our own true Self, which is eternal, is the cause of our suffering, yet this suffering provides us with the opportunity to make this distinction and to learn and grow from it, by understanding the true nature of each.

I know what my True Self sounds like. When the voice of my True Self is prominent, it speaks to my soul’s desire and spiritual path on this planet. It speaks to support me and to gently guide me when I’m off track. It makes me feel beautiful, supported, loved and nourished. It reverberates through my body like a sound wave, ringing through the chakras. Depending on what it has to say, I may feel it in different chakras. When my mind, or my ego, is steering me, it’s like white noise over the aura. When my mind is speaking, it acts more like a distraction or an obsession, and it blinds me from hearing my Truth. For example, I’ve lately spoke of this desire for purchasing. That is my Mind speaking. What is says is this: “You must have this item. When you receive this item, and not before, you will be a complete person. You will finally fit this ideal picture that I have of you.” In other words, the promise of the mind is to make me complete through act. This obsession doesn’t feed the True Self, who is complete already, and who bases everything, including purchases, knowing it is complete.

For the past couple weeks, the number of students in my classes has dropped off, and I have been wondering why. Is it my teaching style or ability or simply the student’s shifting schedule? Like all teachers, I have my own style of teaching. My teaching reflects my personal practice and goals as a practitioner to slowly advance into more and more difficult asanas while keeping breath intact and clearness of mind. My teaching style is a little different than others at my studio. I took a nice class from another instructor, with a filled room, and realized what our differences were as teachers. During the class, I thought, “Well, I could teach this way, couldn’t I, if I wanted to get more students?” But I realized that was my Mind speaking; the same mind that tells me I am inadequate if the number of students in my classes is lower than in other classes. After a day of thought, I realized that I can only teach what is true in my heart, and that the students who come find a connection with what I am teaching, and that is good.
In verse 1.29 of the Sutras, Holcombe translates: Those who have a meaningful connection with something greater than themselves will come to know their true Selves and experience a reduction in those obstacles that may deter them from reaching their goals.

This was another great “hello” for me. As I read this entire article, the cogs in my head went click and I realized how I had been affected by obstacles in my life. When difficulties occur in my life, it’s my reaction to absorb them, to become them. When I injured my back, it wasn’t just an injury to the person I am; I became that injury. Similarly with vertigo. I wasn’t a person with vertigo, it was my vertigo; I had let it become who I was. What Patanjali was saying in this passage is that we need to learn to understand our connection with the Universe and our True Selves in order to experience difficult circumstances without identifying with them or absorbing them.

When I finished reading yesterday, I started to make separation from the difficulties that ailed me. I am starting to glimpse what I already believe: that I am a spiritual being in a body, rather than just a body with a mind. Vertigo or back injuries or PMS or weight gain or sickness or taxes do not define who I am; they are just things that happen to me. Patanjali suggested that everything that has an effect on our bodies and minds is something that is happening to us, not that those things define who we are. It could be argued then, that life on this planet is something that is just happening to us; it is an experience that we are using to grow our True Self. If that is true, then we really must learn to know and trust our True Self and the Universe (or Supreme Being, or God, or whatever you wan to call it). And of course, that we should take life less seriously and find more amusement. After all, it’s just something that’s happening to us. It doesn’t define who we Are.

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