There are four traditional paths of yoga: Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga. And you can find a bazillion different styles of yoga ranging from hatha yoga to aerial yoga to restorative yoga all the way to I-created-this-so-I-can-name-it-what-I-want type of yoga.
But, what is Yoga? Really? Well, that’s a loaded question. Depends on who you ask.
My understanding is that Yoga is the pursuit of Self-realization. Resting in your true nature and realizing this center of consciousness, is the meaning of Yoga.
Today, my path is Raja Yoga. Often called “royal yoga” it is a comprehensive scientific method for controlling the waves of thought by turning our mental and physical energy into spiritual energy.
Thus, the main practice of Raja Yoga is meditation. The practice begins by gradually moving your attention inward where eventually you come to rest in your true nature.
Growing up most of us likely focused a lot of our attention externally. This is a reason why it is challenging for us to focus internally. Just like if you grew up eating hamburger helper and taco bell, it’s likely not going to be easy to start to eating fruits and vegetables.
To stop the mind that is so used to focusing on things outside of itself and to concentrate all its powers on itself in order that it may know its own nature, and analyze itself…that’s hard work!
But knowledge is based on experience. Sure, there’s inferential knowledge. Reading a book can teach you plenty. But if you just read a book on how to cook, it doesn’t mean you actually know how to cook. Likewise, reading a spiritual book isn’t going to all of a sudden make you one with God.
Jesus…Buddha…they felt God. They saw their own souls. Their future. Their eternity. These truths they preached— were the result of their experiences.
“Uniformity is the rigorous law of nature; what once happened can happen always.” – Swami Vivekananda, Raja Yoga
We too can have these experiences. We just need to get out of our own heads. My path to this is freedom is Raja Yoga.
Find the Self. The Soul. Beyond…The light is there.
How do we do that?
What will be the means of observation?
In order to be a scientific process, we must observe and analyze.
A chemist follows a certain method. Go into the laboratory, mix some substances, compound them, experiment with them, and then out of that will come a knowledge of chemistry.
“The knowledge of the mind, of the internal nature of man, of thought, can never be had until we have first the power of observing the facts that are going on within.” – Swami Vivekananda, Raja Yoga
The science of Raja Yoga is the way to observe the internal states — the mind is the instrument.
“The power of attention, when properly guided, and directed towards the internal world, will analyze the mind, and illumine facts for us. The powers of the mind are like rays of light dissipated; when they are concentrated, they illumine.” – Swami Vivekananda, Raja Yoga
So, why? What happens when we turn our attention inwards? The short answer is — happiness.
When we come face to face with our own mind, we see the truth. I’m talking about our true nature — love. This love cannot be destroyed. It’s pure. It’s perfect as it is.
When you find this…there will be no more misery. Because where does misery come from? Fear. It comes from fear and unsatisfied desire. It is here we see and feel the truth. We realize that this pureness, this loving-kindness…it does not die.
When we see our true nature, and really begin the process of loving ourselves…our vain desires begin to dissolve. This is bliss they say.
It is a process of deconditioning the mind, as my teacher Victor calls it. We decondition the mind through concentration.
I mean, think about it. Our minds. The conditioning it has had over the years. Especially since the invention of smartphones and social media. We are addicts. We are addicts of distraction. So many things in this world pull us away from our true Self. When we’re born, we are given a blue blanket if we’re a boy and a pink blanket if we are a girl. And so it begins…
Who we are and what we think is shaped mainly by the external world. It’s easy to concentrate the mind on external things as the mind naturally goes outwards. It’s so easy to believe someone’s word versus having our own experience and building our beliefs based on what we know is true.
How much of what you know is a result of what you’re told versus what you’ve experienced?