Learning How to Straddle… In your mind and other yogic nonsense

Comments Off on Learning How to Straddle… In your mind and other yogic nonsense Written on February 15th, 2012 by
Categories: General, Mysticism and science

I have spent much of my life sitting on a fence. Not literally, because that would be stupid and painful, but as a scientific mystic or mystical scientist, if you prefer. I embrace my ambivalence, sorting out diplomatic relations, as the two sides of my brain vie for power. For example, if someone starts talking about auras and crystals, the Scientist gets all snarky and I have to physically restrain my eyeballs from rolling (try it some time, they’re really slippery).  I inevitably end up blurting out something along the lines of, “Excuse me, what is the data on magical stones and depression?”  And because rolling your eyes at someone else isn’t very nice and something yoga instructors are not supposed to do, I then feel like a jerk.

On the other hand, scientists often have the hubris to think they have somehow gotten it all, that there are no mysteries left that can’t be explained away. They also mistakenly believe that logic automatically leads to truth. For example, the scientific community discovered liquid unsaturated fats were better than their solid saturated counterparts. They figured, “Hey, we’ll just hydrogenate the crap out of these, make ‘em solid and voila! We have healthy butter/lard” ie transfats. What they didn’t understand was that the very process of tinkering with nature and making those fats solid would corrupt them, creating a cancerous poison that would then have to be banned. Because enough examples like this exist, I have learned not to take any recent findings with a grain of salt (which is no longer bad for you by the way).

This ambivalence means I don’t quite believe what anyone says (thank goodness for the iphone, you can instantly verify everything much to your conversation partner’s annoyance), and yet at the same time, progress always requires a leap of faith somewhere.  You have to believe in it before you see it sometimes. Annoying.

In recent years, many aspects of yoga that once seemed to be a little too mystical are actually coming to be understood much better by the scientific community. For example, we are now only beginning to understand how powerful visualization really is on a physical level. How we think about our injury or see it in our heads actually changes how our body responds to it on a chemical and neurological level.  Resentment of one’s injury can truly inhibit healing in a very measurable way.

Conversely, positivity and acceptance also leave their marks as well. During a yoga practice, an attitude adjustment takes place and pain that has been there for a long time can instantaneously melt away.  It feels like magic, an epiphany, a transcendant experience that makes me want to start saying things like “Whoa, that’s some crazy shit. Far out, man.” (but then I have the good sense to use my inside my head voice.)  Yet I know on a very practical physical level, it’s actually my nervous system changing an old pattern into a new one, one that I’ve worked to create through persistence and practice.  This day simply happens to be the day I feel the results.

It feels good knowing that what experience has taught me is now able to be explained on even a molecular level. It makes so much more sense to me now. It’s like figuring out the mechanics of a magic trick.  You know what the magician is doing, but it doesn’t mean that when a trick is done well, it can’t still be totally mind-blowing.

Thus, I have come to embrace my inner fence, which conjures another rather stupid image, but I think it beats sitting on it.

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