Y = Qm2
Perhaps I refer to the mind as much as I do the body whilst teaching. This is how i’ve been taught and I do because I’ve learnt the mind is simultaneously everything and nothing.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” – Buddha
”Although the buddha taught that the brain is, indeed the physical support for the mind, he was also careful to point out that the mind itself isn’t something that can be seen, touched, or even defined by words.” – Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
The mind is the microcosm of the macrocosmic universe .
Quantum Mechanics tells us that everything is energy, and energy can pop in and and out of existence. Sometimes manifesting as seemingly solid phenomena and at other times unable to be found at all.
The study of sub atomic particles and how or why energy can manifest as mass and behave as it does is really quite similar to the study of neuroscience: the study of the nervous system on both a cellular and molecular level.
Todays BIG questions are all about small things.
Einstein’s theories of big things worked ( the solar system) When applied to little things, they didn’t (tiny subatomic particles).
Study of the brain works to understand how we can feel and store data but it doesn’t work when trying to understand HOW we know what it’s like to feel, and how we have awareness of our brain at work. When neurologists look for the mind – they cannot find it.
Neuroscience and Quantum Physics both address the enigmatic fact that a solid, findable, finite, something that makes up the universe and the mind has yet to be found.
Relentless studies and searching has, as yet, failed to find the ‘god particle’ – the solid thing that gives rise to matter. What has been discovered however, is that no physical structure to matter exists until it is measured – on an atomic scale at least ( see Wheeler’s delayed choice experiment). Until then, atoms are invisible energy, not tangible matter.
Likewise, relentless studies of the brain have failed to find the ‘conductor’ of the brain’s activities There appears to be no traceable organ or cluster of cells that direct the symphony of the various parts of the brain coming together to create what we call our experience: often what we refer to as the mind.
So how is all this relevant to a Yoga Class?
Yoga offers answers where Modern Science gets stuck.
Yoga tells us the same as Modern Science: We are not the mind, because if we were, we’d be able to find it.
Yoga tells us we are not the body, because if we were we’d find a solid self in there somewhere, but just like Modern Science has discovered, we can’t find anything solid no matter how deep into atoms we look. There is nothing within us that constitutes a solid ‘I’.
Try it. Contemplate where your ‘I’ is. Are you the body? If so, where in the body do you reside? Are you your mind? If so where is the mind? Can you find it?
You might find that your brain does the looking. You might conclude that you are both body and mind and that makes’ I ‘ . But that would mean they are the same thing.
Are your body and mind the same thing? Are they one?
These are useful questions to contemplate.
Both Science and Yoga agree that this does not mean we don’t exist!
Of course we do. But it’s rather more like existing within the unlimited space of potential for anything to appear, change or disappear. In other words, reality is not so solid.
The mind has the potential to be far vaster and open than many of us can ever imagine.
We make the mistake of identifying with our thoughts and emotions and calling this mind, therefore limiting ourselves within these boundaries which we then call ‘self’ or ‘I’ .
We define ourselves through the mind, when really, mind is the collision of basic awareness and our conditioning: our learnt behavioural and thinking patterns, known as neuronal pathways.
Ask your self: Am I my thoughts? Am I my emotions? You may discover that once you start to watch your inner experience, it changes. Thoughts and emotions are fleeting – they come and go. So which thoughts and emotions are ‘I’ exactly?
Neuronal plasticity is the term to describe how in fact the mind is malleable. It can be changed, re wired and re formed. The way we think and feel can be reprogrammed over time by building new neural pathways – new responses and new habits.
Therefore, one must ask, if the brain can be re wired and changed and it’s conditioning literally re- written then …Who am I?
Yoga offers us an answer; yoga shows us that through awareness, we can see ourselves as we really are – and that is consciousness itself: The unchanging, omnipresent, omniscient self.
This is the something that can see the mind at work – thinking it’s thoughts, feeling it’s feelings. But it’s not any of it. It just knows it. It’s not involved in it. It’s always in tact, untouched, and absolutely limitless as it’s not bound by matter, time or space.
This is the true nature of self. Referred to as the natural mind in Eastern philosophy or essence of mind, and referred to more as the True Self in Yoga.
But how does this relate to Quantum Physics?
The natural mind and the universe are very similar : space just is. The mind just is. Space is infinitely vast and completely undisturbed by what arises in it – it’s doesn’t get disturbed when a comet suddenly zooms past, and it doesn’t get upset when a star dies! It’s just the backdrop to phenomena. And space can only really come into being because of matter – without matter, we wouldn’t know of space.
This is relative existence. Duality. Things exist only in relation to eachtother.
Likewise, without the mind, we wouldn’t ‘see’ ourselves. If we sucked all the matter and life out of space, ‘space’ would still be, but we wouldn’t be able to call it space because there’s no ‘non – space’ relative to it. If we took away our ability to think and feel, we would be left with awareness – the space in which thought and emotion arise.
So we can ask ourselves: what would space be without any form of matter?
What would the mind be without senses? What would the mind be without thought? Emotion?
We can contemplate this….and then maybe we see that space doesn’t cease to exist, we just can’t articulate it. It becomes ineffable. But we still know of it, on some level in us, we can still experience ‘something’.
As with the mind, if we understand that mind isn’t just thought, our awareness has the capacity to expand to the size of space itself!
Boundless. Infinite awareness – whereby everything just is.
And what is the experience when everything just is?
Well, we have to experience it. It can’t be told or described accurately. However, those who do experience it try to describe it…
Liberating. Calm. Peaceful. Tranquil. Joyful.
We all know similar moments on some level. Brief and fleeting maybe, but you may have had a glimpse, where nothing matters – you’re in love; you’re content; the world is still ; you wear a slight smile on your face. No effort is needed. You are just here.
This is what yoga points to – You – as you really are without your life story on top.
So when we refer to the mind in yoga, and then awareness beyond the mind; it’s pointing to this vast space beyond our limited thinking mind that is calm, undisturbed and completely at ease and content, and like space it’s always there.
But just like space, we can forget it’s there. We forget our selves.
Yoga Practise brings the body into a state of equilibrium. We balance the body to balance the mind. A quiet mind has more chance of peace than a noisy one.
When we have an easeful body and a quieter mind, we can see the space easier; we liberate ourselves from what may seem at times like a self made prison cell or a movie stuck on repeat.
Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah:
‘Yoga is the restraint of the modifications of mind’
So Quantum Mechanics, Neuroscience, and Yoga, all meet in the agreement that solidity any where has yet to found. Everything is in fact in a constant state of flux and impermanent with every possible potential for anything and everything to arise and fall.
In the absence of solidity, there is the absence of edges. Atoms have been found to act simultaneously as particles and waves; so where does one particle begin and the other end? Human existence is like the ocean: particles of water are also the ocean itself, but could you say that the two are separate? They are the same thing. But then, just like Quantum testing, you begin to observe and then yes, they appear to be separate. As humans, we make the mistake of thinking we are that separate drop of water, something existing in and off itself. Yoga reveals to us that we are in fact the ocean and we behave like waves – a movement of energy that is one.
We could ask, where does my mind end and yours begin?
We are not small, limited beings, we are the universe itself. We are a collective.
” The true nature of all living creatures is already completely free from suffering and endowed with perfect happiness. In seeking happiness and avoiding unhappiness, regardless of how we go about it, we are just expressing the essence of who we are.
The yearning most of us feel for lasting happiness is the ‘small still voice’ of the natural mind, reminding us of what we are really capable of experiencing.
No matter how absorbing daily life may be – no matter how great it may temporarily feel to fall in love, receive praise, or get the ‘perfect’ job – the yearning for a state of complete uninterrupted happiness pulls at us.
In a sense we are homesick for our true nature. ”
**I have referenced Mingyur Rinpoche in this piece. If the article resonates, I’d recommend his brilliant book which merges Neuroscience and Eastern Philosophy in a simple, understandable manner:
‘The Joy of Living’