At Other Times, the Self Appears to Assume the Forms of the Mental Modifications
Over the past several months I’ve been looking for a job, and finding it incredibly difficult. On one particular morning I woke up in a complete rage. I was angry at all the people who had not offered me a job, and also at all those who smugly went off to good jobs every day. And I looked in the mirror and saw myself as someone who has failed. Later, I got an email from an editor in response to an article I had proposed about local yoga studios. “Love the idea. The only thing is” she wrote back, “I plan to hire someone else to write the article, someone who is well-known in town as a yoga teacher.”
Before moving to Colorado, I taught yoga in Florida. To my students – to myself – I was a teacher. That was my identity. In Colorado I have not been able to find a teaching position. When this editor turned me down to write the piece on yoga I felt furious – and crushed. Who Am I?
As the day went on, I thought about my teacher, Ray. During the many conversations we had, up at Kripalu and later in Peru, Ray would remind me over and over again that our minds can become addicted to certain familiar pathways. It is not that people or circumstances are standing in our way or that life is inherently filled with drama and struggle. Instead, once upon a time we chose to see things that way and over time it has become the easiest pathway for our minds to go down.
Behind our house is the forest. I took Luke and went out for a walk that afternoon, walking up a trail through the woods and coming to a small pond. I sat on the bank and read Patanjali’s Fourth Sutra: When we identify with the contents of our mind we can make statements like: I am a yoga teacher, I am happy. Or, I am unemployed, I am miserable. The “I” appears to undergo a change. But the Self has not changed. It is the reflection of the Self in the “mind mirror” that changes.
Somehow, I do know that there is a “me” that is neither diminished nor exalted by the various changing circumstances of my life. And also that I can choose to go down the path of anger and frustration or, quite simply, choose not to. Sitting on a log by this quiet pool and sharing my sandwich with Luke (who, I observe, is happy in almost all circumstances), my mind quieted. And I came back to my Self.
Illustration by Bev Doolittle, from Shamantube