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Yoga and Shamanism: Expanded Understanding of Reality

May 6, 2008
Shamans have a deep interest in the nature of perception, and an expanded understanding of what constitutes reality. The tradition of yoga also has this expanded understanding.

The word yoga translates as Union. One of the foundational teachings of Yoga is included in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. In it the first sutra, on which all else is based reads, "Yoga [is the] narodha [of] vritti chitta."

The translation from the above Sanskrit I like the best is, "Union is the removal of the definitions that limit reality." By contemplating this phrase we can extrapolate an entire spiritual methodology.

What is Union?

Union is the merging of your consciousness with Consciousness. It is becoming one with the life force, it is becoming aware that you are God/Goddess and everything conceivable and inconceivable resides within you.

The fundamental nature of union involves understanding paradox. The truth is if everything is one, then there is no one experiencing and no experience. Awareness simply is, and there is no way of talking about it. Yet we must try to talk about it to understand how we have removed our attention from it, and learn once again to attend to the one instead of attending to our self-imposed limitations.

It is the nature of the mind to create separation from the One. In fact, that is the mind's purpose. This separation allows us to distinguish one thing from another, to tell that something is a tiger getting ready to attack us, rather than a plant that would be good to eat. Since its entire nature is based on separation, the mind cannot experience the One. That would be like asking a computer keyboard to display video: it simply is not part of its functionality. The mind can record events right on either side of everything being one, but it cannot record the experience itself because there is no one and no thing to record in the moment of oneness.

Definitions and Removal of Them

From this understanding it is easy to see why it is so difficult to reach a state of pure enlightenment. Any place where you have identified yourself as the mind, i.e. you have defined anything as, "That is the way it is," is a place that experiences you going into the One as death, complete dissolution. When you merge with the One, your mind is not present, and when it realizes it wasn't there it rebels. It starts scheming how to keep from ever going there again. This is why spiritual seekers are often called warriors. There is a war in their minds: all the identifications against that one aspect of the seeker that is seeking complete and total enlightenment.

Definitions are all the things you believe about life. From "It's not fair," to "There is never enough ______", to "Good people always ______". Whatever statements you make about the world, and whatever opinions you hold are all definitions. They create a distinction between you and the One, or true reality. The reason is because you identify with your definitions. You think you are your opinions, your beliefs, and your judgments. You think the dialogue in your head is who you are. As long as you hold to that frame, your awareness is trapped inside your self-created limitations. Even though you are The One, you are Pure Awareness, you are Divine Consciousness in this very moment, you don't experience yourself as that because your awareness is trapped by your belief that you are a limited human.

Removal of the definitions means you must remove your identification with those beliefs and opinions. By acknowledging them from a witness standpoint without identifying with them as being who you are you begin to take the energy back that you have invested in limitation. You begin to free up your attention, and you have the energy to turn it toward the Divine. Needless to say this involves a lot of work. You have to become aware of the belief and then raise enough energy to match the energy you have invested in each belief before you will have the ability to choose a different action from what the habitual belief dictates.

Opening Perception, Merging, and Union

As you clear away the old you also work to bring in the new. By stilling the internal dialogue through yoga, meditation, and whatever else works for you, you open up the possibility of merging with everything around you. You open to experience yourself as anything and everything. Shifting from state to state and varying degrees of oneness over time, you can gradually choose to be in pure awareness, bliss, and stillness at will (or at least you can set the stage for it to happen, since you are, after all, not in control of it).

Your perception begins to expand to include all things, all times, all places, and all states. The spikes of repressed and distorted emotion settle into paddle-able waves that surge without distress. By practicing merging with many different things you learn to open up the door of union in every moment. Your awareness rests in that union even as you move through the ordinary world. And the ordinary world is no longer ordinary, but filled with magic, mystery, and the joy of being completely present and engaged without attachment to any outcome whatsoever.
About the Author
Raven Smith is dedicated to sharing powerful shamanic tools to help you live your purpose. He is a mentor in the Eagle Knight lineage of don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements. Raven co-authored Spiritual Integrity and runs Spiritual Integrity Coaching with his wife, Heather Ash Amara. He also wrote The Recapitulation Workbook. Read more about metaphysics from Raven.
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