Tag Archives: yoga sutras

The yoga psychology of the Twitter follower count

I read an article a few weeks ago with statistics on fake Twitter followers of Dutch politicians. It was a reminder to me that having followers on social media is generally considered to be an important thing, and served as an extra trigger for me to try and understand the psychology of having Twitter followers a little bit better.

The method that I use to understand such subjects is self-study1 through contemplation. In this case this started for me by observing my reactions to gaining and losing followers on Twitter. I found that whenever I gained a follower I had a sense of happiness, and whenever I lost one I felt a bit sad or annoyed. I also started noticing that thoughts of my Twitter follower were popping up in my mind more regularly during the day. I took this as an indication that underneath this ‘follower count’ there is something that is important to me.

I asked myself why I am having these feelings; more specifically, I asked myself what needs of mine are being fulfilled by gaining followers. The answer that my mind gave me was loud and clear: “Attention, recognition and approval.” This means that I was unconsciously seeking the attention, recognition and approval of others, and that I was interpreting being followed as being given attention to, being recognised and being approved.

I consider spirituality to be the process of making my happiness independent of other people or things outside of me. This is what I consider to be the practice of non-attachment2. I therefore always remind myself of the following: whatever I seek outside of me is something that I am not finding or giving to myself, and that will eventually lead me to misery.

I have noticed that only the realisation that I am seeking something outside of myself is not enough: as long as I have the perception that I am indeed finding what I seek, I am not able to change the behaviour of seeking that something outside of myself. I have already described one method of breaking this habit on this blog, which boils down to coming to the understanding that if somebody likes or dislikes someone/something, it has (almost) everything to do with that person and (almost) nothing with that someone/something. This understanding paves the way to self-fulfilling our needs.

In this specific case of Twitter followers however, it doesn’t even go to ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’. I have observed that quite a large number of people don’t follow others out of interest, but merely as a strategy to be followed back!

This whole idea of having Twitter followers has become almost entirely meaningless to me after this examination. It has left me with amazement at how our mind leads us to nonsensical behaviours when we seek to fulfill ourselves through external means.

1: ‘svadhyaya’ in the Yoga Sutras
2: ‘practice’ and ‘non-attachment’ lead to Self-realisation according to Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras

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The nature of the ego

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Part 2 – This article

I briefly touched upon the subject of self-fulfilment during last Sunday’s workshop. That in turn reminded me of this article about the ego, which I have been wanting to write for a while but had almost completely forgotten about.

Some years ago I had a realisation that whenever we are looking for something outside ourselves, we are not giving that something to ourselves. If, for example, I am looking for a person to love me, it means that I am not giving myself enough love. This is true for all the other basic needs that are rooted in love, such as respect, attention, appreciation, meaning, etc.

To give ourselves these basic needs, in other words to fulfil ourselves, we need to realise that we are the source of these basic needs. When we do not realise that we, ourselves, are the source of love, life becomes more difficult to enjoy. Our behaviour becomes more externally oriented, because that is where we are seeking fulfilment. This ‘additional’ externally oriented behaviour is what is often perceived as caused by the ‘ego’. It is for example when we are seeking appreciation from others that we start boasting to others about ourselves, become vain, or some other behaviour that is associated with the ego.

I often thought the ego is some sort of thing inside me before I had this insight into it. I started to believe that the ego is something that is preventing me from experiencing ‘enlightenment’ and that it needs to be curtailed, controlled or defeated. I now realise that this approach to the ego is useless, because the ego is not a thing and so you cannot battle it. It is correct that it seems like the ego is unbeatable, for the simple reason that it does not exist. I experienced relief when I understood this.

The ego is simply a misunderstanding or misbelief about who and what we are. We are the source of all the basic human needs and my experience is that we start experiencing this more when we start to act according to that understanding.

Those who are familiar with Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras can compare the explanation in this article to his explanation of the kleshas. Patanjali says that ignorance of our true nature (avidya) is the root cause of all suffering and that ‘I-ness’ (asmita) is a product of this ignorance.

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The truth about judgements 批評的真相

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I am a sweet tooth who absolutely loves chocolate. I have made a good friend here in Taiwan and it’s clear that it’s not our love for chocolate that brought us together; she absolutely hates it.

If you would ask the both of us to say something about chocolate, I might say “chocolate is delicious” and she might say “chocolate is disgusting“.

I have been asking people for their view on which of these statements is true. Up to this point I have only received the answers “both are true” and “both are neither true nor untrue“, neither of which is my answer.

I reject the answer that both are true because both statements are contradicting each other. The truth, in the highest sense, is not subject to personal point of view. In other words, if it is really the truth that chocolate is delicious, then it must be the case that that is the truth for everyone. That means that the statement chocolate is disgusting is automatically untrue.

I also reject the answer that both are neither true nor untrue, because that would mean that both statements contain no information in them at all. It would be the same as not expressing anything at all, but everyone seems to sense that at least something is being said.

My answer is that “both statements are untrue“. When I give that answer, some people have disagreed saying that both cannot be untrue, because at the very least both statements are personal truths. I agree that both statements are coming from some personal experience, but if you observe the statements chocolate is delicious and chocolate is disgusting, you will see that no personal experience is mentioned at all; the word “I” does not appear in any form in either statement.

I say that both statements are untrue because neither “being delicious” nor “being disgusting” are properties of chocolate. Chocolate is chocolate. It is more accurate to say that “experiencing delight” and “experiencing disgust” are possible experiences of somebody who eats the chocolate.

This is why I say that judgements are objectified subjective experiences; judgements are personal truths expressed as absolute truths.

So let’s say that we have understood the analysis above, and you would ask us again to say something about chocolate. I would say nothing about chocolate directly, but I would say “when I eat chocolate, I really enjoy the taste and she might say “When I eat chocolate, I really dislike the taste“.

I have also been asking people to let me know what they think of these two statements, and all have said so far that both statements are true. Contemplating this, I gained an insight that has helped me very much: When you judge, you lie. When you express your feelings, you don’t (lie).

This insight that judgements are lies has helped me to become more free from them, because we automatically let go of mental concepts when we understand them to be untrue. It has also helped me to gain an insight in what it means to express opinions, but I will leave that insight to another article.

I would like to conclude this article with an interesting observation for people who are familiar with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Yoga starts from love, because its first practice (ahimsa: non-violence) is love applied. Love means accepting all and rejecting none. Love is therefore free from judgements and since judgements are lies, the practice of ahimsa automatically leads to satya (truthfulness).

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我是一個熱愛甜食的人,非常喜愛巧克力。我在台灣生活期間認識了一位好朋友,但並非因為我們對巧克力懷抱同樣的喜愛。我的朋友非常厭惡巧克力。

如果你問我們兩個人有關巧克力的事,我可能會回答: 「巧克力真好吃!」而她可能回答: 「巧克力真噁心!」“.

我問了許多人,這兩個說法,哪個才是真的。至目前為止,我聽到的答案包含:「兩個都是真的。」、「兩個都不是真的,也不是假的。」,但這都不是我的答案。

我拒絕「兩個都是真的」 這個答案,因為這兩個說法彼此矛盾。就最更高意義而言,真實是不能取決於個人觀點的,也就是說,如果c巧克力真好吃這個說法r確實是真的,那麼應該每個人都是這麼認為。這表示巧克力噁心的說法,自然而然地是不真實實的。

我也拒絕了「兩者不真也不假」的答案,因為那意謂著,這兩個說法並未含有任何資訊,就好比這些說法從來沒有表達任何事情一樣。但是我想每個人都可以察覺到,這些說法當中至少表達了某些事情。

我的回答是:「兩個說法都不是真的。」當我提出這個回答時,有些人不同意,因為他們認為不可能兩者都是假的,畢竟兩個說法都至少包含了某些個人真相。我同意這兩個說法都是來自於個人經驗,但如果我們進一步看這兩個說法:巧克力真好吃以及巧克力真心,你會現這些說法中並沒有提到任何個人經驗,這個字並沒有出現在任何一個說法中。

我之所以說這些說法都不是真的,是因為「好吃」以及「噁心」都不是巧克力的成分。巧克力就是巧克力,較準確的說法應該是說,「體驗到喜悅」或「體驗到噁心」,這都是在吃巧克力可能產生的體驗。

這就是為什麼我會說,評斷是 客觀化的主觀經驗;評斷是個人的真實但卻被表達為絕對的真實。

假設我們瞭解上述分析,你可以再請我和我的朋友說說巧克力。我不會說任何與巧克力直接相關的事,我會說:”「當我吃巧克力的時候,我真的很享受巧克力的滋味。」,而我的朋友則說:「當我吃巧克力時,我真的很不喜歡那個味道。」

我也問很多人他們對這兩個說法有什麼看法,至目前為止,大家都說這兩個說法都是真的。從這當中思考,我也因此獲得了我相當有幫助的洞見:當你評斷時,你在說謊。當你表達感受時,你不說謊。

批評是謊言的這項心得,使得我能夠從評斷當中解放,當我們瞭解這些批評並非真實的時候,我們就能夠放下它們。這也幫助我了解何為表達意見,但這個議題,就留待另一篇文章再行探討。

我希望能夠以一項觀察,做為本篇文章的結尾,特別是提供給熟知帕坦加利的《瑜珈經》的朋友:瑜珈由愛開始 ,因為該經典所列的第一項練習(非暴力),正是愛的實際運用。愛意謂著接受一切,毫不拒絕,因此愛是免於評斷的。而既然評斷是謊言,那麼非暴力的練習自然而然地導致誠實(truthfulness)。

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Understanding your personality 了解你的人格特質

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Part 2

In the last couple of days I have been confronted with a number of situations that have stirred up some powerful emotions in me. It is interesting that this is happening at a time that I have started to understand a practical and useful approach to dealing with emotions and have silently resolved within myself to practice that approach. Some words of wisdom of my father will help explain this apparent coincidence: He says

When you resolve to obtain a driver’s license, you will be faced with the driving test.”

The peculiar part is that approach that I have started to realise is mentioned in one way or the other in both of the materials that I am studying at the moment, namely Marshall Rosenberg‘s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and a compilation of some of Swami Rama’s commentary on chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras into a book called Sadhana: the Path to Enlightenment.

I would express my understanding of the ‘aim’ of the approach as a method that helps you to at the one hand gain an insight into a basic level of your being that lies beneath your emotions and on the other hand to gain the ability to direct your emotions, thoughts and actions when confronted with strong emotions. To quote from Swami Rama’s compiled commentary:

“Even though you may be a highly cultured and intelligent person, one emotion can come and make you behave irrationally. For instance, you may lose your temper and behave in a totally unexpected manner (…)

The level of desire is deeper and more powerful than the emotional level. If you study your desires it is easy to understand your life and the different aspects of your personality.”

The important insight that underlies the approach is that underneath the realm of actions lies the realm of thoughts; and underneath the realm of thoughts lies the realm of emotions (feelings). When we go even deeper than the realm of emotions, we encounter the realm of needs and desires. Swami Rama mentions another layer which lies even deeper than desires, which is the layer of subtle impressions (samskaras) in the memory bank of the mind; I have not yet recognised an experience from that layer for myself, so I will not discuss that layer here.

Now the approach itself is quite simple. Start from the layer that you are aware of at a certain moment, observe what you are experiencing at that level without judgements, and then try to look at or ask yourself what activity is present at the layer underneath the level where you just were. Then continue from that level. In essence, this is a practice of self-dialogue or contemplation.

I want to illustrate this method through an experience I had over a year ago. Once on a quiet Saturday morning I was walking home, coming back from doing groceries. I was waiting at the final traffic light before my house, where an elderly gentlemen and his wife were also waiting to cross the road. While we were waiting there an ambulance came racing by with its sirens on. There seemed to be a big emergency because the ambulance made a sudden right turn and crossed a sidewalk to end up in the street where it needed to be. The gentlemen standing next to me was suddenly getting angry and he started saying to his wife, “What kind of dangerous and reckless driving is this?! This should be made illegal!” and so on.

In the meantime I was getting very annoyed and angry myself, because I couldn’t really understand why the man would feel the need to complain about something that seemed so obvious to me. I soon became aware of how tense I had made my body. Experiencing that tension with curiosity, I quickly became aware of my thoughts. I was thinking things like “Oh my God! What an idiot! How can he be so dumb not to understand this?!” I was not judging these thoughts, I simply saw the thoughts passing through me. I then saw through them and realised they were thoughts coming from anger. My anger was leading me to mental complaints. When I stopped going with the anger and simply started feeling and observing it, I asked myself, “Wait a minute. Why am I getting angry? What am I trying to achieve?” I got one of the most shocking answers of my life. I answered myself with, “I want to feel better than that person. When I complain about him, I feel better about myself.”

After receiving that answer, the whole chain stopped by itself. No more feelings of anger, no more angry thoughts and no more tension in the body. Since that day I do not complain as much anymore, because I gained a simple insight into that part of myself from which those thoughts are coming and that there is another way to nurture that part.

Part 1 – 本文
Part 2

過去幾天裡,我碰上一些使我產生強烈情緒反應的狀況。有趣的是,就在我開始對於處理情緒的實際有效的方法有所理解,也在心裡暗自下定決心要好好練習這個方法的時候,這些狀況就出現了。我父親曾說過一段很富含智慧的話,可以用來解釋這樣的巧合,他說:

「當你下定決心要拿到駕駛執照時,你就會面臨駕照考試。」

有趣的是,在我目前所學習的Marshall Rosenberg的非暴力溝通課程以及一本集結拉瑪大師針對《瑜珈經》第二章的講解《修行:開悟之路》當中,都提到這個我開始有所認識的方法。。

我對這個方法的「目標」的理解是,它一方面幫助你深入觀察那隱藏在情緒之下的個人存在的基本層面,另一方面幫助你在面臨強烈情緒反應時,能夠導引自己的情緒、思考和行動。拉瑪大師在《修行:開悟之路》中說:

「即使你是一個非常有教養、非常聰明的人,有時候情緒一來,它能使你表現得毫無理性。例如,你可能大發脾氣,做出意料之外的行為…」

「慾望的層次要比情緒層次來得更深、更強大。如果你能夠深入探討自己的慾望,那麼你將更容易了解自己的人生和人格特質的不同層面。」

這個方法的重點在於,在行動之下,隱藏著思想;在思想之下,隱藏著情緒(感覺)。當我們更深入探討情緒時,我們會發現需求和渴望。拉瑪大師提到一個比慾望更深的層次,那就是心智的記憶儲存庫中,那些細微的印記(samskara)。我還沒有碰過來自那個層次的經驗,所以在這裡我就不討論它。

我所說的這個方法其實很簡單。從你在某一刻所覺知的層次開始,不帶論斷地觀察在那個層次所經歷的一切,然後試著觀看或問問自己,你之前所在的那個層次之下,有什麼樣的活動正進行著,接著再從這一層次繼續觀察。基本上,這是一個自我對話或沈思的練習。

讓我舉個例子來說明。有一個安靜的星期六早晨,我剛買完東西,走在回家的路上。在我家附近的路口,我等著紅綠燈,此時有一位老先生和他的妻子也一起等著。就在我們等待的時候,有一輛救護車警笛大響地急駛而過。我想狀況可能十分緊急,只見救護車突然往右轉,開上人行道去。這位站在我旁邊的老先生突然變得很生氣,對他的妻子說:「怎麼有人開車這麼危險,這麼不小心!這應該是違法的!

聽到這段話,我自己也感到很生氣,因為我不了解,這位老先生為什麼無法理解在我眼中很明顯的事情。我很快地意識到我的身體突然變得緊繃。我好奇地觀察這份緊繃感,很快地察覺到我的思緒。我正想著:「天啊!真是個笨蛋!怎麼能這麼笨,連這都不懂?」我並沒有針對這些思緒做任何評斷。我看著它們,了解到這些思緒是來自於憤怒。我的憤怒引發內心的抱怨。當我停止隨著憤怒起舞,轉而經歷、觀察這份情緒時,我問自己:「等等,我為什麼要生氣呢?我到底想做什麼呢?」此時我得到人生中最叫人震驚的答案之一。我回答自己道:「我想要感到比這個人優越。當我抱怨這個人的時候,我覺得自己比他優越。」

在獲得這個答案後,這整個事件停止了。我不再感到生氣,不再有憤怒的情緒,身體不再緊繃。從那天起,我不再那麼常抱怨,因為我觀察到內心情緒的起源,並了解到我可以運用另一種方式培養它。

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