The First Step
The theory of evolution given by Charles Darwin is a widely accepted scientific theory which says that over multiple generations, living species experience change in their heritable characteristics making them fitter to survive in the changing environment. This process is called evolution and it implies that the species with better adaptability to the environment and with better ability to reproduce and to survive actually survive. What makes humans more evolved than other species?
The distinguishing factor is the ability to Self reflect. No other living species except humans has this ability. Humans can not only think, but also analyse, reason and question. In fact it is only humans who stand a chance to go beyond the mind. This connection to Wisdom beyond mind is possible with Self reflection. Let us understand what is Self reflection and why this quality is so crucial.
To Become or to Be?
Change is the fact of Nature. At every moment change is happening. Given this ongoing change; as humans we have two choices : we could either become a mere participant in this change or we could take control of this change! Animals and other species on the other hand do not have this choice. They are deemed to be controlled by this change. What gives humans this choice? It is the capacity to “witness” the change which is the result of evolution process. By “witnessing” one is no more a part of the change.The witnessing capacity creates awareness and leads to Self reflection. A Self questioning arises; Why am I like this? Could there be a better way to be? Why do I react in situations? This questioning happens when one begins to reflect on him Self, his behaviors and patterns!
This awareness also creates the ability to be less influenced by the outer, by the change, by that which is not you. Some examples of influences of change are influence of weather, influence of a life situation, influence of the emotions and expressions of other people, influence of your own thoughts, fears, anxieties!
Let us take an example to understand. You are in office and due to some miscommunication a task was held back. As a result your colleague begins to shout at you. As a participant of the change, you would become the situation, you would perhaps become angry too and react. This leads to “you” participating in the experience without awareness and hence you get carried away by that experience. Another choice would be to step out of that situation and become a witness of the happening. You witness the anger arising in your colleague, you also witness the thoughts and reactions arising in your mind probably but the act of witnessing creates a separation between “you” and the situation which does not let you become a participant in the event happening. Here lies also the key to break the vicious cycle of cause and effect, the cycle of Karma!
Self Reflection – the key to Evolution
The whole creation can be divided into Purusha (The Consciousness) and Prakruti (The Nature). While the Consciousness is eternal and permanent; the Nature has manifested from the Consciousness and constantly changes. Hence the process of witnessing makes us shift from the zone of Nature to the zone of Consciousness.
Evolution is a continuous process. Creation and its’ creatures as part of Nature continue to change and evolve. However this path of evolution involves pains and sufferings and takes millions of years. The process of Self reflection which happens as the result of creation of awareness due to witnessing, enables the humans to fasten this evolution process by connecting one to the Source, the Consciousness itself. This is the power of Self reflection. Humans are thus the only species that can speed up their own evolution to the extent that even Nature surrenders to them.
Role of Yoga in Evolution Process
The practice of Yoga is a scientific methodology that builds the witnessing capacity to reduce the influence of change (Nature) on us and hence fasten the process of evolution. Nature in physical form influences us in the form of gravity, in the form of body weight, pressure, and other physical forces. In the practice of Postures using awareness as the tool, a Yogi attempts to dissolve the influence of these physical forces on the body through various techniques. One such technique is Balance.
Humans are capable of expressing perfect balance in any body position. As we go from one Posture to another the attempt is to dissolve weight in every Posture by creating perfect balance throughout the body. This is possible only through Self reflection. After attaining stability in a Posture, the practitioner tries to reflect on the position of his body. Is there more weight on certain body parts? Or is there passiveness in certain areas? Can I be more aligned? By making a Self-reflection with such questions and by resolving imbalances he gradually tries to move towards weightlessness. This is how using various scientific techniques, a Yogi tries to defy Nature on the Yoga mat. While this happens at the body level, the patterns of breath are broken through Pranayama practice and the conditioning of mind are directly dealt with through Meditation.
Witnessing is the first step for Self reflection. Looking at your own Self, witnessing your own state of mind, your own breath and body, witnessing your own attitudes and patterns is the first step to break those patterns.
“TAPAH SVADHYAY ESVARAPRANIDHANANI KRIYAYOGAH”
Sadhana Pada, Patanjali Yoga Sutras
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