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    Yoga Sutra Verse of the Week - YS 1 .38 Inspiration and Clarity from Dreams

    YS1 .38 Also, the mind can be inspired or supported in alignment by the understanding or insight obtained in dreaming or deep sleep.


    Yoga describes a vision of human being (read “being” here as a verb) that is broader and more holistic than the largely fragmented psychodynamic, biochemical and behavioral models of modern western culture.

    In Yoga, the mind (and everything else) is structured in consciousness (richo akshare parame vyoman) meaning quality and capability of mind is made up of how awake we are, how aware we are, and how we’re focused. Mind exists as a function of awareness and focus, and life flows from that.

    In the West, mind is believed to exist only because there is a brain. Mind is seen as the subjective experience of the function of the brain. Mind health is brain health. And it goes further: awareness and the ability to focus is seen almost entirely as an attribute of brain chemistry. To modern science, everything about a person, one’s character, one’s tendencies, one’s choices all exist as a function of the neurochemistry of the brain. At one point it was believed that there was some agency in the mind that allowed for free will and self-determinism, however the biological model seems to be consistently moving in the direction of reducing human behavior and experience to a product of genetic and environmental factors. We are entirely subject to our biology.

    Yoga sees it diffently. In Yoga, awareness exists independent of the physical manifestations of the world.

    Awareness is seen as giving rise to the world, not just in experiential terms, but in physical terms. The physical world, including both brain and mind themselves are manifestations of the energy field of awareness itself. The primordial awareness field labeled Purusha is self-aware, purposeful, all-powerful and contains within itself infinite intelligence. It exists eternally at the heart of all matter and energy and guides and directs the flow of life that becomes the movements and the laws of Nature. In sentient beings it becomes the mind and in flowing through the mind continuously becomes the body and the resulting body is how we experience, focus on and participate in the world.

    Everything (Prakriti), both physical and non-physical, is structured in consciousness: animated, illuminated, made aware of and supported by this underlying field of energy and intelligence that are the two basic gifts of pure consciousness itself (Purusha).

    Now to the point of the sutra: states of mind and states of consciousness exist in a continuum, from gross to subtle and refined. The more refined, the more intelligent, the grosser, the more distorted and dysfunctional.

    More resistive conditions of mind, here labeled “grosser,” which means high-contrast, dramatic, stressful experiences of mind (more agitated or more dull) are less clear, less pure, less intelligent, weaker and harmful. This is what happens when the mind-stream is contaminated by resistance to the flow of life. (Rajasic and tamasic states of mind)

    Yoga, in supporting release of all mental and emotional resistance to the flow of life, supports clearer, purer, more intelligent (both intellectually and emotionally intelligent) states of mind, states of mind that are naturally comfortable and balanced, and because they exist in harmony with life, are more adaptive and productive.

    Yoga enumerates three basic states of consciousness, waking, dreaming and deep sleep, which everyone experiences, and brings into being a fourth, transcendent, state of mind called turiya. This fourth state of mind is highly refined waking mind blended with pure consciousness or creative intelligence, a product of yoga practice.

    Waking state is where we actively participate in life with others and focus on growth and development. Sleep is where we release the stress and resistance that is a by-product of being engaged in the work of living. It’s where we are refreshed and restored, where the mind and heart are able to heal and reset. As the mind gets pure through practice, deep sleep is less “unconscious;” we are less dull in sleep, we feel more of a sense of pervasive wakefulness and contentment while sleeping deeply.

    Dreaming is a state somewhere between the two, where we experience, in a magnified way, either the stresses that we’re up against or gain inspiration as to how to reach for greater fulfillment— good and bad dreams. In each case, the good feelings give us inspiration as to a purer form of what we’re reaching for, while the bad dreams give us a clearer sense of the anxieties and upset that we’re struggling with. Dreams can be a window, a fresh perspective on the ways we’re focused during the day.

    The insights and inspiration we receive in deep sleep or in happy dreams can be a very useful support to our continuing growth in well-being.

    Dwelling on these inspired insights in waking state, whether in meditation or in daily life, is a way of further refining and clarifying mind and extending yoga practice towards samadhi.

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