Yoga off the Mat: Higher Faculties

This is the sixth part of my Yoga off the Mat series. Read part one, Yoga off the Mat: Contemplation, here, part two, Yoga off the Mat: Concentration, here, part three Yoga off the Mat: Method, here, part four Yoga off the Mat: Practice here and part five Yoga of the Mat: Progressing here.

In today’s post, I’ll be sharing some ideas and practices written about in 3.17 to 3.56 of Patanjali’s yoga sutras.

We are still working through chapter three, with some final insights around how samyama is used as the finer tool to remove the subtler veils of ignorance.

As I mentioned in my previous post, many shy away from exploring this chapter as we’re talking about some pretty esoteric stuff. Superpowers! Supernatural experiences! But these things are not our goal. In fact, they are a test of ego. Let’s be honest, if you gained a superpower, how easy would it be for your ego to get out of control? Exactly my point. This test of ego is a sticky point in the journey.

The other thing which makes this an easy place to get stuck is FEAR. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the supernatural. It is important here to have faith. Faith you will be looked after, that you will not be given something you are not equipped to handle.

Let’s quickly recap. We’ve worked through the first two rungs of samyama (concentration and meditation) and we’ve now dipped our toes into samadhi (enlightenment).

This is where we lose the small self and gain access to the BIG Self. We realise the vastness of the whole universe resides within us. And we can now use this universal knowledge (the veils of ignorance have fallen away) as an opportunity to pose a question. Note: often the question itself is much more important than any answers we may get.

Experiences from samyama
I’ve hinted at supernatural powers (siddhis), so let’s look a that a bit closer. While some people see the coming of siddhis as an opportunity to further the ego identity, the true aspirant sees that they are to be encountered, experienced, understood, and set aside. The true yogi knows that they can become distractions from the realisation of Self.

It is also essential to know that you do not have to attain all of these experiences to continue progressing on your journey. And also know that while some are born with abilities, others will find them the further they hone the tool of samadhi.

Another thing to note is that the aspirant does not need to be “100% pure” to gain access to siddhis or powers. This is not a linear journey after all!
To give you a taste, here are some of the siddhis explained in this chapter:

  • Knowledge of past lives
  • Knowledge of another’s mind
  • Ability to remain unheard, untouched, untasted and unsmelled.
  • The strength of an elephant
  • Knowledge of objects unseen

Remember: The spiritual aspirant must neither chase these powers or shy away from them! They are simply a part of the journey.

This is within your reach
Especially when delving into this later chapter of the sutras, many people will start thinking that this stuff is out of reach or not for them. Untrue! While some of the things I’ve talked about in today’s post might seem pretty out there, if we simply follow the path illuminated for us by Patanjali, these experiences are available for all of us. It’s about coming back to our daily practices and walking the path consistently with an open heart.

Homework: How can you enhance or edit your daily practice?

A quick story: The other day, sitting at the emergency vet (puppy Hercules is healthy and well now!) I glanced over at the stack of magazines in the waiting room. On the cover was something about the latest rumours on Brad and Angelina’s divorce. I didn’t’ pick up the magazine. In fact, I looked away straight away and didn’t think anything more of it.

The next day I was sitting in my daily meditation practice. What pops up? Brad and Angelina! It just goes to show how easily something can enter your subconscious and get caught there. I’d only glanced at the cover, and yet it stayed with me. With that in mind, think about editing both what you’re consciously consuming as well as what you’re unconsciously consuming!