Image is of the land around Heddan Gard Farm in Norway that I visited summer in Norway.
On my retreats where I focus on teaching emotional intelligence in Yoga I often begin with a day or two of teaching the cosmological map of Classical Yoga first. Now, why would I do that? Not only are many students looking totally overwhelmed, confused, and humbled by this vast teaching, they struggle to understand how in the world it would apply to them where they sit at the moment and the issues they are having with their body image, boyfriend, and career confusion. Well, this is why:
One of the biggest differences between new age/positive thinking psychology teachings and the mind/heart training we do in Yoga (and other eastern wisdom traditions) is that the psychological work we do in Yoga is viewed to have rippling effects that have cosmic consequences versus just producing a better day in our daily life. This is precisely because the wisdom traditions sit within a cosmological framework and so nothing we do in body and mind can be divorced from that greater picture.
In more mainstream positive thinking teachings, creating a positive pattern in your mind is often viewed as an end unto itself thereby creating a happier life. Yet, in most of the eastern wisdom teachings, that pattern is created to produce better conditions AND better samskaras (imprints) in the mind to create more beneficial karma that effects this life and all future lives (in this realm and many others) along the quest to awakening to a fully liberated state beyond conditions. A bit different.
Much of positive psychology teaches “being happy” is just about altering and transforming one’s internal psychological and emotional life, so the practices are taught without perhaps examining the very basis of what the phenomenal world actually is. So it is often presented as this: face your afflictions = happiness. Yet, in the wisdom teachings this is viewed as an incomplete teaching and a bit of a lie, because lasting happiness cannot be found while one is identified with an ego— a constantly changing mental continuum that is loaded with karmic potential. In Classical Yoga, for example, facing your afflictions = compassion, clarity, and wisdom = ability to experientially see that lasting happiness is not about creating an ongoing set of temporal conditions over and over and over again = the drive and aptitude to discover a “reality” beyond all temporal modes of experience and being.
Even though people may have zero interest in discovering the wider realizations that these wisdom traditions state are waiting for them, the trick is that as they begin to cleanse the mind, the aspiration can evolve naturally over time as one experiences greater degrees of insight. Once one reaches the summit of several personal psychological and emotional mountains, perhaps the summit of samadhi or complete awakening does not seem so unattainable anymore.
I have found that after teaching BOTH the cosmology and the emotional intelligence work, the students really see the connections between the role their heart and mind plays in their spiritual work and spiritual quest as a more integrated whole; whether or not they fully accept the metaphysical model, they develop a greater respect for the wisdom traditions and the depth they have. They see how spiritual practice is not just lighting some incense and trying to be positive, but rather cleaning out the obstructions in the recesses of the mind in a rather provocative way to awaken to a birthright of grandeur that is theirs to embrace, personally and then perhaps, universally.