The initial chapter, Knowing Yourself, observes the attributes that are part of the idea of identity and notes the importance of bodily action to the idea. In keeping with the holistic approach throughout the text the concept of organism is introduced. The knowledge that has its origin in body awareness has been described by Gendlin as the felt sense. This concept is explained. The knowledge we have of ourselves is unique in the fact that it is known from the inside. What difference does this make to the practice of yoga? Progress is often assumed without evidence but the idea of things changing for the better is surely part of life change. This idea is discussed and the unpredictable nature of change taken into account. Detachment is a key term in yoga practice. It is a state of being, difficult to achieve, necessary for real change and important for all of the rewards inherent in good experience of yoga such as bliss, or tranquillity. Here the concept is introduced. A brief look is taken at the varied motivations for starting yoga practice. In life without the reduction of dependencies, growth and freedom are empty concepts. Some examples are discussed. Learning acquired in yoga will not produce life change without some effort to transfer the learning to the social world. A beginning is made in considering the connection.
In the chapter, Life Embodied, the relationship between movement and personality is introduced. The degree to which our personality traits are imprinted in our movement is noted and some examples are given to illustrate the interrelationship of movement and personality. It is easy to find confusion in the notions prevalent in yoga about engagement with life and detachment. These two ideas are clarified. Attitudes to yoga vary and there is a relation between attitude to yoga and life stage. An effort is made to explain the relationship. One of the goals of yoga is to sever the mind from the senses in the practice called pratyahara. The sharp engagement of the senses in the contemplation of certain abstractions is explained and distinguished from attachment to the senses. A beginning is made here in understanding the connection between bodily modes and personality traits.
In The Wise Body, chapter three the use of the felt sense is discussed in finding a path through the tangle of thoughts and emotions in states of mind and in the value of such contemplation in connecting you with your deep subjectivity. The temptations of scepticism are highlighted and the value of the body’s knowledge in contesting scepticism is explored. Part of an awareness of the body’s knowledge is developing sensitivity to the chakras. Each chakra is explained and its significance introduced. Because mood changes frequently impinge on the quality of your yoga practice it is important to be able to work well with mood. What being mood literate means is examined and related to the felt sense.
Chapter four, Down to Earth makes clear the earthy connection with gravity that is part of our daily movement experience and how it plays a part in asanas. How our unique nature, embedded in each of us, relates to existential isolation and loneliness is described. I distinguish the difference between felt learning and cognitive learning and the basic value of the former in yoga practice. There are several good models of our subjective being and some of them are observed in this chapter. I point to the value in being able to develop a good attitude to yoga practise.
In chapter five, The Physical Ground of Being I make a start in exploring language and the body and begin to explain what body wisdom is. I look at the question of how our experience of life may be influenced by body awareness. The earlier look at the relationship between movement and personality (chapter two) is further developed. What is the nature of personal practice? Here a look at this question is taken. An example of the relationship between asanas and emotional distractions is examined with reference to the lotus asana. The importance of the work of Eugene Gendlin in connection with the body is introduced and his concept of the felt sense re-examined. How the ability to empty the mind develops out of initial body awareness is observed and how such control links with meditation.
How is being a person explained in the literature of psychology and philosophy? This concept is examined in chapter six, Keeping Faith, and my preference stated for an organic model of person. The nature of organisms to self actualize is acknowledged and the impact of this process for yoga practice.Entering your first yoga class can be an opportunity to contest the ideology. How can you work to reduce tension in your yoga practice? One answer to this question is given. The experience of asanas enhances the effect of nature on your consciousness; some examples of this are observed. The links in relationship between existential awareness, pratyahara and depth of contemplation in meditation are made.
In The Quality of Attention, chapter seven, the effect of yoga practise on making decisions is discussed. Good attention on the breath promotes the ability to deal with distractions which interfere with your sustained perception on an object. How development of control of attention allows for a deeper connection with the deep levels of your experience is explored in relation to the example of coping with depression. When is authenticity possible and once a good connection is is made with subjective flow how can the awareness enhance social life? Some examples are given of this process of mining from the poets.
The power of pratyahara in coping with the demands of the will is examined in chapter eight, Being Free. What it means to connect with the core of the self is explored and how the process of empathy may be transferred to relationships with others. Perversity of our capacities for willing, being autonomous, or having faith are illuminated in Erikson’s developmental schema. His insights throw light on the perversity of the will mentioned by Charles Taylor, Canadian philosopher and writer of the Sources of the Self. The role of emptiness is connected in this chapter with the capacity for seeing the inter-relationship of things; for opening the doors of perception. The importance of knowing one’s limits in relation to addiction is noted and the question of when to ask for help raised. Change cannot occur unless we take the first step. The importance of being one’s own person is introduced and the relevance of escaping from the internal authorities.
Change and the Environment focuses on the importance of passivity in deep meditation. I argue that part of coming to know the meaning of your life is about recognition of its communal nature and avoidance of an over-individualized concept of life. The scope of Erik Erikson’s developmental schema for gaining insight into your history and future is described. I remind the reader of the relevance of birth order in appreciating your history. Reality and work are deeply inter-related. This link is emphasized for an understanding of the environment. Erik Erikson’s schema can enliven your perception of your childhood and life stages. Some examples are given.
In the chapter, Meditation, being one with the transcendent is noted as a value shared by both mysticism and meditation. Ethnic differences in routes to this state of transcendence are mentioned. The importance of harmony with nature is noted as a goal in the Tao (the Way). Breathing techniques, passivity, and transcendence of the intellect are characteristics fundamental to many meditation practices. Writers who cite such themes are introduced. That moral being is inherent in meditation is mentioned again. How Hepburn and Desikachar understand loss of duality as a necessary part of meditation is demonstrated. Loss of duality connects with the notion of boundaries between person and object. Some examples of boundary processes are given. It is noted that the theme detachment is common in both Chinese and Indian thought. Rudolf Otto’s picture of mystical knowing is introduced and the importance of the moral dimension again noted. His understanding of the concepts of void and nothingness is explained. How the struggle towards the goal of meditation is particularly associated with the state of Samadhi is noted and Pantanjali’s guidance outlined. The discussion ends by emphasizing the necessity of a state of grace in reaching the goal of meditation.