MILES OF MIND

Photos: Sivananda Yoga Camp - Words: Carley Van Osch
Remember that final scene in Fight Club, when buildings are exploding around Edward Norton, and the Pixies start playing in the background? All goes black, and then they howl, “Where is my mind?” 
This is often what I’m reminded of whenever my teacher says to me, “where is your mind?” It’s one of his favorite lessons, which he repeats consistently.  

We are going through the majority of our lives unconsciously, or at least not fully present. We zip between thoughts of the past and worries of the future so quickly that there is hardly time for awareness of now. When we stop to look, where is my mind?, we often find it miles and miles away, dwelling on a completely unrelated matter. Here we are, studying or working or getting our groceries or doing our practice, yet our minds are in a universe of their own. How much potential is left vacant because of this endless wandering? How much clarity would we be allowed if we were able to pause this, even just for a few moments? How much peace would we get if for just one moment it all went silent. 

In meditation we are practicing becoming acutely aware of thought waves arising in the mind. We set aside a certain amount of minutes, and after that, get up off the mat, pat ourselves on the back, and say “good work for the day.” But sitting down for meditation is merely a means to an end, a conscious practice of a constant habit. Meditation is not theoretical, it is hands on. It doesn’t end when the ten, twenty, thirty minutes are up. Meditation is practicing mechanisms to recognize and release thought patterns. It is teaching us to observe our minds, each subtle movement at each subtle moment. Then we move on to disassociating from these thoughts, realizing they are a passing mental state changing constantly. On the mat, the steps are clear and concise. But off the mat, it is more difficult to maintain awareness of what is passing through our minds, or more suitably, where our minds are going. 

Awareness is what my teacher, Swami Shivabhaktananda of the Sivananda Yoga Camp, means when he asks “where is your mind.” Are you conscious of your mental condition as you go about your daily tasks? If you were to become more conscious, could you choose which states to inhabit and which to discard? It is viewing yoga as a state of mind, or rather, an awareness of the state of mind. The more we meditate, the more we practice, the more we are able to raise this level of awareness. Our minds are no longer allowed to run wildly and blindly between highs and lows and past and future and all other disassociated circumstances. We become one pointed, our focus increasingly narrowed to the state at hand, the present.  



The benefits of this I have seen through Swami Shivabhakta. Running the Yoga Camp is often an 18 hour a day, 365 day a year task, especially for its director.  Yet between training courses, weekend programs, guest speakers and everything else Ashrams require for upkeep, Swamiji stays energetic, uplifting, and dedicated. He is a source of good vibes, simply through being in his presence. This is where I have seen evidence that these practices are effective. It is because Swamiji has such awareness, and selectivity, of his thought waves, that he is able to work tirelessly to spread the messages of yoga. He is affected only by what he chooses to allow, and the power of choice makes all the difference. So practice. Practice, practice, practice. As much as you can remember, ask yourself, where is my mind? Then put it where you want it to be, and keep bringing it back there again and again and again. 

Choose your thoughts, choose your attitude, choose your life. 

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