Viveka - The Embodiment of Keen Discernment

This morning, I told my students, that they cannot embody "Inner Spiral" without engaging "Outer Spiral." And conversely, they cannot truly embody "Outer Spiral" without engaging "Inner Spiral." You simply cannot have one without the other. There is always a dance that exists between the two. They are always in dynamic relationship to each other. And for those familiar with Anusara Yoga parlance, it can take a lifetime to embody both.

Some will require more of one principle, while others will require more of the other. Sometimes the engagement required is dramatic. More often, it is quite subtle. For some of us, the engagement of both principles requires about the same amount of effort.

Each of us, has certain tendencies. It is only through keen observation and discrimination that we become more fully aware of what our tendencies are in our various practices. It is through the cultivation of viveka - which is after all, a form of mindfulness, that we can open the door to transformation.

In his book, The Path of the Yoga Sutras, Nicolai Bachman defines "viveka" as "keen discernment." This is not something one does haphazardly; it can only be attained within the context of a marriage of such qualities as openness, intent, focus, and observation.

Bachman has these observations in his book about the cultivation of this practice:

"The ability to choose wisely and separate the wheat from the chaff is fundamental to the practice of yoga. Without this ability, our thoughts, words, and actions are limited to the whim of habitual tendency and the prison of involuntary conformity. Yoga involves a commitment to freeing our heart and mind of unnecessary and unhelpful baggage and focusing instead on our path toward contentment and inner happiness.

Viveka is knowing and consciously discerning one object from another...

Viveka helps us to make healthy choices in life. Stepping back and quietly contemplating what we really want in life can initiate actions in that direction...

In any action, it is important to know who or where we are now...where we want to go...and the steps necessary to get there. Observing ourselves closely through quiet contemplation, and listening to others can give us a sense of who we are...

Viveka can help us avoid being harmed due to lack of knowledge or experience...

Viveka also means separating what is useful from what is not...

On a deeper, internal level, viveka can help us distinguish between our changing body and our unchanging inner light of awareness. Without viveka, individuals identify the body as themselves..."

So, through the cultivation of viveka, we grow more deeply in the knowledge of who we really are, and the essence of our true nature, and thus we open the door to inner transformation. When we do that, we are able to help others awaken and become more mindful as well.

Nothing that occurs on the mat is without connection to something bigger and something greater. Sean Corn likes to say - we take our yoga off the mat and into the world. At this time of so much strife and protests everywhere, it is easy to take sides and point fingers. The cultivation of viveka helps us stay open to all the nuances and perspectives within a situation.

The practice of viveka goes beyond the embodiment of two principles in yoga, and opens the door to so much more.


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