Existential Psychology

Yoga Process Mirrors Life Process

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The other day during class a yoga teacher had some splendid things to say about the practice. “Yoga is all about the process. You may reach milestones, and that’s great, but these milestones are an external manifestation of the inner journey and are, in and of themselves, irrelevant.”

Where yoga mirrors the life process of becoming who we are is that the motivation for growth isn’t centered around external goals like money or prestige, but is centered instead around the internal striving for personal expression and development. In both cases, external milestones will probably be met, and actually the second probably has the better chance at achieving great things, but the practitioner doesn’t care about them because he knows they are illusory.

If you are motivated by external goals you are setting a trap for yourself, because the acquisition of that goal is usually never like people imagine it will be, and soon the reality sinks in that nothing fundamental has changed about their existential situations. They are left with the same existential questions and concerns, some of them flitting at the edge of conscious thought, that they had before. They had banked everything on the belief that achieving an external goal would answer these questions but of course it didn’t.

If you view human life as on a continuum where each moment unfolds from the last until the day you die, then your mentality easily shifts to seeing the point of life being to develop your internal potentialities as much as you can over your lifespan, and you realize that this process will never be over. If you could magically live for an extra hundred years you would be different still from the person you have become when you die. In this frame milestones are still welcome, and they usually serve as tangible evidence that we are on the right path. But these milestones are not ends in themselves, rather they are markers along the journey.