On Yoga and Expanding Consciousness

Brad Korpalski
On Yoga and Expanding Consciousness

I spent the first part of Mother’s Day in the car. It was a self-prescribed journey, a last-ditch effort to encourage a final resolution to our 3-year-old’s determination to avoid sleep and start her day before the sun.

When I got behind the wheel, I set forth a mild intention to kind of “get lost.” Living in Bali, where the diminutive roads twist and turn into ambiguous destinations, this is more or less a typically expected outcome.

There’s a saying here “all roads lead to where you’re going—just not always in the way you imagined (An apt metaphor in its own right).” So on a beautiful Sunday with no obligations in mind, I set off on my automotive stroll, ready and willing to accept the unknown.

It was a pleasant drive, with a favorite podcast playing on the stereo, and a slumbering child in the back. I was enchanted by the circuitous journey through rice fields, small villages, and picturesque stands of coconut trees and narrow river gorges.

A Change of Tune

But then, as minutes ticked into hours, my tune changed. I found, somewhat intensely, my capacity for accepting the unknown shattered. Serenity was instantly replaced with frustration, joy in the surrounding beauty supplanted by annoyance at its unfamiliarity.

I was losing control and I could feel a visceral response in my physical and mental body when the fear of losing that control commenced. What started with an intention to go with the flow and let things happen, now gave way to a poignant view into my inability to actually do those things.

To some, this situation might not register as an issue. Surely there are things (such as this) that are impediments and require our intervention—we’re not meant to accept everything, are we?

As I paused in the throes of this frustration, what became evident is that I could change the circumstances in front of me; namely, I could figure out where I was and navigate my way home, and that would appear to solve the problem and be the end of the story.

Yet upon closer review, I could also feel the significance of my emotional response, the anxiety around losing control, that unchecked, would serve as a tether holding me to a recurring theme within my life. The anxiety I felt—the discomfort—had to be dealt with.

I knew, intuitively, that if I just got home without transforming the emotional response to the situation, without looking at my desire for control and the subsequent disappointment when things feel out of control, I would be destined to experience this similar anxiety again and again and again…

Our Experiences as Opportunities for Expanding Consciousness

This is the point I wish to consider: all experience is layered with unfathomable depths of connectedness, meaning, and relevance, nearly all of which rests beyond the surface of the matter. The seeming repetition of things in our lives confirms this understanding.

The circumstances of my “getting lost adventure” simply served as another opportunity (in a long line of opportunities) to observe my discontent with anything that felt out of my control. The repetition is us literally being “stuck” within a particular layer of consciousness.

To me, giving attention to this layering of consciousness is useful in all domains—be it asana practice, work, relationship, illness, etc.—as it reveals bigger patterns and transports us beyond symptomatic thinking.

Symptomatic thinking serves to address the symptoms of deeper patterns rather than address those patterns themselves. In this paradigm (our context for viewing the world), a cold is just a cold, a habit is just a habit, and a problem is just a problem.

We can see this method of thinking at work in our own lives, but perhaps it’s easier to see it in society itself. Collectively, we address “issues” as if those issues exist in a vacuum, devoid of connection to other areas of society.

The war on drugs is a classic example of this line of thinking. Viewed on its own, drug use is a problem between user and drug, hence, the focus on punishing users and suppliers. However, with this context, we neglect the deeper connectedness between drug use and the world at large.

Breaking through Symptomatic Thinking with Yoga

The broader context remains hidden from view and we fail to address the vast economic disparity, the shattered individualized communities, bland materialism, etc., that give rise to the proliferation of drugs and its abuse.

The reason I bring this up here, alongside posts about Down Dog alignment and asana sequencing for hamstring tightness, is that yoga demands us to look more closely at the connection amongst things.

For many, this awareness begins in connecting experiences within the physical body to mental and emotional patterning.

We start to see how tightness in the hips relates to an inflexible pattern of the mind. ~Brad Korpalski

More and more, we begin to establish a new level of consciousness, and as it becomes our view of all things, we now consider the world as an interconnected reality where nothing stands on its own.

This step, when considering the healing of our world, is vital. It opens us up to increasing capacities towards compassion and forgiveness, making us less likely to isolate individuals or groups and cast blame—including within ourselves.

And it gives us freedom—the freedom to own our lives and the freedom to truly let go.

Now…If I could only find my way home.