Have you ever felt that there must be something more to life, something beyond our mundane experience of the everyday world? From our childhood on we are programmed to conform to the reality we perceive around us, the reality that our family and friends perceive.
We are conditioned to believe that we are only our personality, our thoughts. Yet, this is not so. The conditioned mind and structured personality are just a set of energies that overlay the original Self. Then how do we discover the nature of this original Self?
Jnana yoga (pronounced nyah-nah yo-gah) is a system of Self-inquiry whereby we gradually let go of our identification with the personality until the true Self is revealed. Just as Hatha yoga stretches and opens the body, jnana yoga stretches and opens the mind.
As we dissolve our description of reality, we realize the world is different to what we had imagined before. Life becomes new, fresh. We become more discerning, more peaceful inside. Insights and clarity arise more readily and our lives become balanced and filled with Grace.
There are three main methods used in this Self-inquiry.
The first is called “activating the witness consciousness”. Our witness is our unbiased, neutral, eternal Self. It is who we really are. In order to cultivate our witness we consciously and deliberately examine how we feel, think, and behave.
With this, we gradually strip away our layers of social conditioning and identification with the ego. We discover that the mind and awareness are not the same and that there is an intelligent part of us that can observe our mind dispassionately.
The second method is to ask the question “Who am I?” The approach used here is normally a stripping away of who we are not, which leads us to a place beyond the mind where nothing remains to describe the individual being but the true, essential nature of the Self.
The third technique involves bringing what has been unconscious into consciousness. It is important to uncover and dissolve the hidden patterns wedged in our unconscious in order to be free of them, as the newness and freshness constantly coming to us from Source is blocked by these patterns.
Here we look at aspects of ourselves such as our unconscious behaviors, habits and addictions. We bring what has been in the dark into the light. It’s as though we have to understand the functioning of this human system fully before we can move beyond it. We own all of our parts, and then we let them go.
As we progress in our practice of jnana yoga, we take a step back and observe ourselves on the stage of life, playing our role, like watching a movie on a screen. We are the actor, yet we also get to write our own script. Our witness is really our Divine Self watching the ego living life in this way.
The more we strengthen our identification with our witness and the less with our egoic personality, the more we grow spiritually. As this process continues, we experience an emptying out, a letting go of our attachments, desires, fears, and stories.
The more we empty, the greater our Presence and our love; the less we attach, the greater our delight and joy in the mystery of life; and the more we cultivate acceptance, the greater our contentment. We experience a “lightening up”. Indeed, this is the process of achieving “en-lighten-ment”.
Even a little bit of jnana yoga practice goes a long way to bringing more consciousness into daily life and along with it more clarity, peace and joy. The invitation here is to celebrate the process! How far down the road of awareness are you willing to tread?
The 10 Principal Aims of Jnana Yoga
- To activate our witness consciousness, so we are at once the observer and observed, noticing that when we shine the light of awareness on something it changes.
- To cultivate a habit of gracious acceptance for life as it is rather than resisting the things we can’t change.
- To let go of our attachments to outcome and surrender up our preferences to God.
- To come fully into our feeling nature, so we can be more present with our experiences and move through our lessons more quickly.
- To know that we are totally responsible for the quality of our experience of life and that how we respond in any situation is always our choice.
- To realize that we can have no peace in the present without healing our past.
- To appreciate the sacredness of life just as it is.
- To feel what it is to be a person of integrity, speaking truth and being authentic.
- To surrender our habit of control, so we can explore the frontiers of life’s mysteries, rather than remaining in the safety of our known.
- To realize that true joy is in living out our life’s purpose as an instrument of God.
~ From: Twenty Questions for Enlightened Living, by Julia Tindall, www.juliatindall.com/