Self-transformation

Self-transformation in the world is about changing the ‘qualities’ of the body and mind (what the mind identifies as ‘I’) from what the worldly thinking and belief categorize as bad, wrong and negative into what the worldly thinking and belief categorize as good, right and positive, in order to enhance one’s self-esteem, self-image, attractiveness, confidence, productivity, knowledge, skill, ability, physical and mental performance, social networking, or success in career, life and relationships, to attain what most people’s thinking and belief categorize as ‘good’, ‘easy’, ‘comfortable’, ‘enjoyable’, ‘successful’, ‘prosperous’, ‘happy’ and ‘meaningful’ life.

Self-transformation in the teachings of yoga is about reforming the thinking pattern of the mind to free the mind from being conditioned by the worldly egoistic thinking and belief that influences how the mind thinks, acts and reacts towards all the mind perception of names and forms, to free the mind from ignorance, egoism, restlessness and impurities, to be free from suffering that exists due to ignorance. Being free from attachment towards qualities of names and forms and being free from identification with the impermanent selfless existence and function of the body and mind as ‘I’, realizing selflessness or ‘I’-lessness, unlimited by any qualities of names and forms.

If the mind is surrounded by the company of the worldly minded and constantly receiving all kinds of worldly input and influence of worldly ideas, thinking and belief, and being influence by all the ceaseless trends in the world to make decisions and live life, then it’s very difficult for the mind to practice yoga of the annihilation of ignorance and egoism (even if the mind likes to perform some forms of yoga practice), as the mind will disagree with many of the teachings of yoga that are contradicted with the worldly thinking and belief, and unable to be opened to inquire the truth of something that is unknown to the mind or something that is disagreeable to the mind that is under the influence of the worldly thinking and belief to analyze and judge what is agreeable and disagreeable.

And hence the importance of retreating or moving the mind away from the worldly way of life, behavior, habits, thinking and belief, to renounce worldly inputs and influences, relationships, interactions and activities, to allow the mind to see things beyond the limited worldly thinking and belief that influences the mind to judge everything, act and react, that empowers ignorance, egoism, impurities and restlessness.

Does the mind still think that ‘this’ is something ‘good’, and everyone should do ‘this’, and ‘that’ is something ‘bad’, and everyone shouldn’t do ‘that’? Does the mind still think that “To live a good and meaningful life, I need to be like this and not like that. Other people also need to be like this and not like that to live a good and meaningful life?” Does the mind still amazed by and admire towards someone or something that the mind perceives as amazing, wonderful and meaningful, that the mind would like to be like that someone and to have/experience that something? Does the mind still want to be able to inspire or amaze other people? If the answer is ‘yes’, then this mind is not free, even though this mind only wants to perform ‘good’ actions and doesn’t want to perform ‘bad’ actions, and living everyday life being in certain ways and not being in certain ways, according to what the mind thinks and believes as ‘good and bad’ or ‘meaningfulness and meaninglessness’ based on the worldly thinking and belief about what is ‘good and bad’ or ‘meaningfulness and meaninglessness’.

It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want to do with their life, body and mind, and whether to practice yoga to free the mind from ignorance, or not.

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The essential of seclusion and solitude in yoga

Inquiry towards why the practice of seclusion and solitude is so important in yoga.

Many people, including yoga practitioners, might think that the practice of seclusion and solitude is only limited to those who renounce worldly life completely to be a monk or nun. Even monks and nuns might not be practicing seclusion and solitude when they live in a community with other monks and nuns. Being a monk or nun doesn’t mean that one is not getting in touch and mingling with the society/family/friends/relatives, or not engaging in social connections, interactions and activities.

There’s nothing wrong or bad with worldly life of family, relatives, friends and community. There’s nothing wrong with social connections, interactions and activities.

But for those who want to quiet/silent the restless mind, to realize/see the truth of things, to be free from ignorance and suffering, to transcend the mind perception of an impermanent selfless life existence of births and deaths and the suffering of a physical body that is subject to change, decay, aging, injury, illness and death/decomposition, then the practice of seclusion and solitude is a very important and most practical efficient way to quiet/silent the restless mind, to free the mind from restlessness and ignorance, and be free from the mind perception of suffering.

For many people who are not interested at all in transcending the impermanent selfless worldly life existence of body and mind, and are very passionate towards the worldly life existence with all the relationships and activities, constantly decorating the body and pampering the mind with sensual enjoyment through the senses, and be contented with ceaseless gratification of the desires of craving and aversion to feel good, happy, confident and meaningful, then the practice of seclusion and solitude is irrelevant to them.

The mind is receiving inputs through the senses ceaselessly, whether with awareness or without awareness, wittingly or unwittingly, remember or don’t remember. There’s constant input of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts, unwittingly, not to say additional human worldly passionate egoistic conversations, interactions and activities. All these accumulated imprints from the ceaseless inputs of the senses continuously bubble up to the surface of the mind during concentration/meditation causing great distraction/hindrance to the mind to be silent, especially in the novice.

And hence, retreat from the worldly social/community/family life to cut down or cut off getting in touch/coming in contact with worldly minded people of worldly relationships and social medias, and cutting down or cutting off all kinds of physical and mental worldly social connections, communications, conversations, interactions and activities is so important for those who sincerely want to conquer the restless modification of the mind to realize yoga.

There are many good and kind and friendly intellectual people in the world, but Satsanga (the company of the wise and liberated beings) that will lead the mind towards silence is very few. Quite many yoga practitioners mistaken worldly good and kind and friendly intellectual people as Satsanga on the path of yoga. All the good, kind and friendly intellectual people will give the mind lots of suggestions, advice, encouragement and ideas of doing this and that in the world to achieve something that they believe as the meanings of life based on their cultural/social/religious/political thinking and belief, and pull the mind away from the path of yoga of silencing the mind.

Most people think and believe that this is selfishness and irresponsibility towards the family, friends and society. Many think that this is madness/abnormality. That’s their freedom of thinking and belief.

Yoga enthusiasts who think the practice of seclusion and solitude is ‘wrong’ and ‘meaningless’ will say that, “This is not the yoga that I know, that I want.”

What they don’t know is that transcending the modification of the mind to be free from ignorance, is the greatest form of duty, compassion and contribution towards all beings and the entire life existence of this body and mind.

Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, Swami Sivananda and many other saints and sages in the past were in some kind of seclusion and solitude away from the worldly society/relationships/connections/interactions/activities for many years until they successfully attained the goal of what they were looking for.

Meanwhile some might had tried to practice seclusion and solitude, but after short period of time being cut off from seeing, talking, communicating and interacting with other human beings of family, friends and relatives, they gave up seclusion and solitude and run back into their everyday relationships and interactions with the world due to missingness, loneliness, meaninglessness, boredom and fear.

Due to passionate attachment and identification towards worldly life existence and relationships, many people including yoga practitioners and yoga teachers give themselves many justification/excuses to avoid the practice of seclusion and solitude, mostly thinking that “It’s so wrong and selfish to not seeing or talking to our family, relatives and friends to care for everyone in our life, or not socializing or interacting with other human beings in the society, to show love and care for others. It’s so meaningful and wonderful to have family, friends and community that care for each other.” And when they experience great physical, mental and emotional suffering and painful sorrow, they would cry and seek blessing from ‘God’ or ‘superhuman Guru’. That’s everyone’s freedom of thinking and belief and choice of living.

That’s also why serious yoga practitioners choose to move away from such worldly life of worldly beings that might generate unnecessary interference, distraction or hindrance to those who want to take yoga and meditation practice seriously. It’s indeed a journey alone on the path of transcending the mind and the suffering of ignorance.

The Guru said, “You have now received all the teachings. You are left alone now. Retreat yourself and practice and realize.”

Go beyond the impermanent selfless physical body

It’s normal and nothing wrong that many people are being determined by everything that is related to their physical body to be who they are, being determined by the condition, ability/disability and appearance of the physical body to feel satisfy, confident, meaningful, good and happy, or not.

There is expectation towards the physical body to be the way that they desire it to be. And if their physical body doesn’t turn out to be the way that they expect it to be, they feel disturbed, disappointed, dissatisfied, unhappy, frustrated or depressed about themselves and their life. This is truly unnecessary if one practices yoga and knows what is yoga.

For those who truly want to practice yoga and realize unconditional peace, the non-attachment and non-identification with the impermanent selfless physical body is one of the important teaching and practice of yoga, alongside the non-attachment and non-identification with the thinking mind, the cultural and social thinking and belief, the feelings and emotions, the desires and all the perceptions/experiences of names and forms.

Go beyond the impermanent selfless physical body and realize unconditional peace.

The mind that perceives all the names and forms through the senses via the physical body won’t be determined or disturbed by the impermanent changes of health condition/strength/flexibility/ability/performance/energy level/appearance/aging/decaying/mortality of the physical body.

The youthfulness, good health, great strength, super flexibility, skillful abilities, high performance, high energy level and desirable appearance of the physical body cannot avoid/defeat/conquer impermanent selfless changes, decay, sickness, injuries and mortality. The strongest and healthiest person in the world would also breakdown instantly if being hit by a strong impact, or poisoned, or infected by life threatening viruses.

The world greatest super talented, fit and skillful sportsmen/sportswomen and incredibly strong and flexible acrobatic performers and world class gymnasts also would suffer from disappointment, depression, hurts, painful sorrow, sickness, injuries, degeneration, old age and death.

Seek not identity, satisfaction, confidence, sense of meaningfulness and happiness in the existence and function of this impermanent selfless physical body.

For the yoga or peace seekers, this life existence of the impermanent selfless physical body is just a momentary transition to allow the selfless restless mind under the influence of ignorance and egoism to be liberated from the suffering of ignorance, egoism and restlessness through transcending/silencing the modification of the mind.

Non-attachment and non-identification with the physical body and the thinking mind as ‘who I am’ doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t appreciate the existence and function of the physical body and the thinking mind, or does not maintain the well-being of the physical body and the thinking mind, but out of compassion, one appreciates and maintains the good condition of the physical body and the clarity/sanity of the thinking mind for performing yoga and meditation practice without attachment, identification and expectation towards the existence and function/the ability and disability of the physical body and the thinking mind.

This is the basic practical yoga practice that would bring the mind towards the realization of unconditional peace, not by performing lots of physical yoga asana exercises. By performing/practicing/teaching lots of yoga asana exercises regularly for many years, possessing the knowledge of the yoga asana exercises and gaining the maximum benefits from doing the yoga asana exercises doesn’t guarantee that the mind will have peace, if one has attachment, identification and expectation towards the existence and function of the physical body and the thinking mind as ‘who I am’, to feel good, happy, satisfy, meaningful and confident, or not.

Those who couldn’t or don’t do any yoga asana exercises for some reasons, they will have peace if they know what is non-attachment, non-identification and non-expectation towards the impermanent selfless physical body and thinking mind, being undetermined and undisturbed by the selfless impermanent changes of the body and mind.

When the mind knows how to be undetermined and undisturbed by the impermanent changes of the body and mind, the mind would also know how to be undetermined or undisturbed by the mind perception of all the different qualities of names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses, of what it sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches/feels/senses and thinks.

That is what yoga is about, resting in peace in the NOW while experiencing all the ups and downs, pleasantness and unpleasantness, agreeable and disagreeable life experiences, or happy and unhappy relationships through this selfless impermanent mortal life existence of the function of the body and mind perception of a worldly life of impermanent names and forms of beings, relationships and things.

One doesn’t need to momentarily escape unhappiness or tension by taking any substances of drugs or intoxicants that could give many damaging side-effects to the function of the body and the thinking mind. One doesn’t need to rely on attaining/possessing ‘good and positive’ qualities and the gratification of desires of craving and aversion to feel good, happy, meaningful and confident, or not. That is real freedom or liberation.

Yoga is not about possessing great virtues and merits from performing good actions and accumulating good karma to have a better rebirth to a better/easier/less suffering next life experience, or self-punishing to inflict physical pain/injury to remove sins, or to be ‘migrating’ to a place called ‘heaven’ after death. Though that is people’s freedom if that is what they believe in and that’s what they want.

Peace in silence?

The untrained minds might want to have some ‘peace in quietness’ once in a while when they feel that they need to be unwind and rejuvenate from restlessness and tiredness derived from over-activities, over-stressed and over-stimulation. But, after a few moments or a few days of ‘peace in quietness’, the minds want to get back into the daily routine of actions, stimulation and adventure as soon as possible. The minds need some sorts of excitement, stimulation, interaction of inputs and outputs, the sense of accomplishment or achievement, and acknowledgement from others, to feel good and meaningful about life and about themselves of what the minds think and believe as who they are, or who ‘I’ am.

Some say, people just need to know how to balance between quietness/relaxation and excitement/stimulation. Most minds like to hear this. Many yoga teachers also preach about this – The balance of everything.

“Come for yoga class/yoga retreat and do some yoga exercises when you feel restless/tensed/tired/burn-out and need to be unwind/relaxed/rejuvenate/re-energized from restlessness, tension, over-tiredness, or burn-out.”

Though there’s nothing bad or wrong with that, yoga practice is more about learning how to free the mind from ignorance and egoism to minimize/reduce/stop generating unnecessary restlessness, tension and exhaustion into the body and mind, so that one doesn’t need to be unwind or relaxed at all, than to do some yoga practice once in a while to unwind and relaxed, then generate more tension and tiredness in everyday life, and then come back again for more yoga practice to unwind and relax, repeatedly and ceaselessly.

Most minds don’t really like the teachings of yoga about quieting the restless mind to be in silence, to annihilate the modification of the mind completely, not just for a few moments or a few days of quietness to be unwind from restlessness and exhaustion, but then the minds eagerly want to get back into worldly activities of interactions, stimulation and excitement, as the restless egoistic mind can’t stand being in quietness for too long. The minds that are used to restlessness and stimulation will feel unease, bored, lonely and meaningless after being in quietness, away from restlessness of physical and mental activities of interactions of inputs and outputs, stimulation and excitement for some time.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just the common behavior/reaction of the ever restless ‘I-ness’ mind.

Yoga and meditation practice is training the mind to eventually drop-off the ‘I-ness’ being immersed in quietness. There’s no unease, boredom, loneliness and meaninglessness. And hence, the mind doesn’t need to be engaging in any sort of physical or mental activities to get excitement, stimulation, interactions of inputs and outputs, the sense of accomplishment or achievement, and acknowledgement from others, to feel good and meaningful. The ‘I’-less/selfless mind rests in peacefulness and quietness, as it is.

Self-inquiry into the truth of who/what am ‘I’

– Inquire the truth of all the names and forms that the mind thinks and believes, and identifies as ‘I’, such like the life existence, the existence and function of the mind, the states of mind, the thinking/thoughts, the feelings/emotions, the mind perception of names and forms through the senses, the belief, the vision/ambition, the inspiration/aspiration, the self-esteem/confidence, the self-image, the culture, the race, the nationality, the pride, the shame, the ‘good’ qualities, the ‘bad’ qualities, the species, the religion, the practice, the behavior, the personality, the family/relatives/friends relationship, the social network, the social status, the titles, the talents, the skills, the learning/education, the knowledge, the qualifications, the memories, the experiences, the career, the energy field/level, the mental health condition, the desires of craving and aversion, the likes and dislikes, the agreements and disagreements, the positive and negative thinking, the standard of right and wrong, the sense of meaningfulness and meaninglessness, the existence and function of the physical body, the physical look/appearance, the different stages of growing and aging, the gender, the sexual orientation, the facial feature, the skin tone and colour, the hair, the body shape, the physical ability and disability/limitation, the physical health condition, the different bodily systems, the clothing and accessories, the life style, the living condition, the interests/hobbies, the food option, the actions and the result of actions, the possessions/belongings, the livelihood, the wealth, the achievements, the contributions, the sacrifices, the expectations, the satisfaction/dissatisfaction, the guilt/regret, the hurts/disappointment, the happiness/unhappiness, the sorrow/grief, and so on.

– If this is ‘I’, then it should belongs to ‘I’ and it should be in the control of ‘I’ about how ‘I’ would like/want it to be. If it’s not in the control of ‘I’ about how ‘I’ would like/want it to be, it doesn’t belong to ‘I’, then it’s not ‘I’ or ‘mine’.

– Negate what is not ‘I’.

– Realize selflessness. There is no ‘I’. Just impermanent changes of names and forms, arising and passing away.

Suffering and restlessness exist because of the ‘existence’ and ‘identification’ of the ego/’I’ in the mind/the thinking. Realize the truth of ‘I’, there’s no suffering or restlessness. Absence of suffering and restlessness is peace. If ‘peace’ comes from experiencing/perceiving ‘good’ and ‘positive’ qualities of names and forms, or due to everything is the way that the thinking would like it to be, then this ‘peace’ is ‘conditional peace’ that is impermanent. The real peace derived from knowing the truth of ‘I’, being free from ignorance and egoism, is unconditional and undetermined by all the life experiences/the mind perceptions of different qualities of names and forms of ‘good and bad’/’positive and negative.’