YOGA AND THE ACT OF DISCOVERY
“You have no need to travel anywhere – journey within yourself. Enter a mine of rubies and bathe in the splendour of your own Light.” ~ Rumi
In our age of global connectivity and instant gratification, discovery is something we want more of, all of the time. We are constantly seeking for something new, for something different, for something more mind-boggling, eye-popping, heart-stopping, jaw-dropping. It’s the thrill of adrenalin and the thrill of expansion. I for one am a total sucker for novelty. Especially in the middle of winter, when I know it’s just a short plane ride away, I feel my bones aching for tropical sun and my soul for the ‘exotic’, for adventure, perhaps even for a little bit of danger, just to wake up out of the hibernatory thrall of a grey Melbourne winter and remember that I am alive. It takes a lot to remember that, as Marcel Proust so elegantly writes, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
And so I find myself again deeply grateful for the gift of yoga. Yoga is one of the profoundest acts of discovery. It is an invitation to turn those wandering eyes within, and not only seek out new territory, but to map it – and through the act of mapping, to actually create it. Neuroscientist Daniel Siegel calls this ‘interoception’: the act of “perceiving within”.
We all know that when we turn our awareness inwards and shun external distractions, as we do during meditation and yoga, we discover things about ourselves – often the things that we would like to keep hidden out of view: the negative thoughts, the self-doubt, the loneliness. This is why at first these practices are so challenging: we have nowhere to hide, and we have to see all of the stuff we’ve kept locked away for so long. Tell me exactly why I’d want to sit on my mat just to discover how much my body really hurts and how putrid my thoughts really are?
Yet as we pay attention, with undivided and non-judgmental awareness, to our internal body states, such as breath and sensation, we integrate the different parts of the brain, affording us more insight and more ‘control’ over our typical emotional and survival patterns – you know the ones that we unwittingly or unwillingly enact over and over again whether we know it or not, or whether they serve us or not. We create new pathways in the brain that allow us to observe and not react, which eventually enables us to choose how we respond, how we act, and how we engage with life. We emerge with our eyes wider open, brighter, and radiantly alive. And as this life pulses from within, we find ourselves ready to discover the beauty in the touch of a cool wintry raindrop on the tip of the nose, to spark up a conversation with a French tourist in a tea shop, or to take a wander through a tiny art gallery in a cobbled laneway with the marveling eyes of a child ready to find novelty and wonder in the every day.