Yoga Psychology and Boundless Healing

Someone asked what the “Psyche” was at one of the Yoga Illumined weekends.  Tremendously beautiful question.  And slightly difficult to answer.  Only because I could give all the textbook explanations of what the Psyche is – but we don’t ask questions in Yoga to simply answer them in some rote dictionary fashion.  We ask questions so that we can go from Avidya (ignorance) into Vidya (true knowledge).  And to do this, one must give the questioner a direct experience of the Psyche versus some blah blah blah that holds no meaning.

Textbook of Yoga Psychology, Guruji, Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, Ramamurti S. Mishra M.D., Yoga Illumined, Yogafly, Sumukhi, Austin, Texas, Castle Hill Yoga, Yoga Black LagoonI liken the Psyche to the interpreter in one’s self as to what is going on within and all around the individual.  When people mess around with you and you gullibly buy into it, they say, “Psyche!”  Fooled you.  The Psyche is like this – it’s an interpretation of the world around and inside of you that is, of course, correct as it’s your interpretation, but isn’t ENTIRELY correct. Yoga psychology says, go beyond the interpretations of the Psyche as there is so much more to uncover.

We spend the entire year of Yoga Illumined studying The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – among many things.  And Guruji’s book, The Textbook of Yoga Psychology, although not a mandatory text – is a helpful companion to breaking down the Sanskrit and helping us understand the resonance of each Sutra we chant.

Over the years of going back and forth between this book, meditating and chanting Sanskrit, I have come to realize that so much of what Patanjali is doing is helping us discern the difference between the Psyche and the I-AM.  And somewhere in there you get an understanding of where the Ego stands in the world in connection with the Body, in connection with the Mind, in connection with the Psyche, in connection with Consciousness, in connection with Love and the Source of All That Is.  And it’s all pretty non-denominational.  So Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, is in fact, as Guruji titled his tome, a “Textbook of Yoga Psychology.”

So what’s the big difference between Yoga psychology and Western psychology?  And believe you me, I see both as incredibly important.  Yoga psychology is dealing with the nature of I-AM – which has “being-ness” connected with the “I” and does not answer the I-AM with a particularity.  Western psychology deals with filling in the blank after I-AM _____. For example, I-AM (insert word here) a woman.   I-AM Asian.  I-AM not very tall in comparison to many human beings in North America.

So there in lies the huge difference.  Guruji (Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, Ramamurti S. Mishra, M.D.) says “Hold on to I-AM.”  And everything swirls around this.  But the swirl, for Yogis is not the study.  The study is of the I-AM that Witnesses the Swirl around it.  But for Western psychology, the study is the swirl.  And I believe it’s important to study both.

What comes first, the chicken or the egg?  I believe the egg gives you a perspective of what the chicken may be like and the chicken may give you a perspective of what the egg may be like.

It’s delightful, really, because when you go into I-AM and study the Psyche from this standpoint – it’s like a FREE PASS.   You get to see everything from the standpoint of the Witness.  And all the wonderful cacophony, symphony, SWIRL of desires, thoughts, memories, emotions, feelings, dreams, sounds that make up the Psyche becomes a painting or a novel.  And it’s not like you control the cacophony of the Psyche.  It’s more like all of a sudden, the Psyche does not have as much authority over you as she once did.  And you can turn the pages of the novel quicker or tear a page or two out if you don’t like it.  Or re-write parts of it – if not all of it.

And then if you flip – and you take the standpoint of the Psyche and study the I-AM, suddenly the issue in the Mind or the Sickness in the body or the wild Emotion that you are identifying with (for example: I-AM angry.  I-AM confused.  I-AM depressed.) seems to be small, microscopic in comparison to the great big I-AM.Yoga Illumined, Yoga Sutras, Guruji, Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, Ramamurti S. Msihra, M.D., Yogafly, Sumukhi, Kristina Lanuza

The I-AM is like the Sun looking at the Earth.  And the Psyche is like the Earth looking up at the Sun.  Both are important perspectives.

And so we encourage everyone to make sure you know who you are from a Western psychological sense.  You have to know who you are as an Ego – before you put the Ego in its place.  It is supremely healthy and important to identify as a person, female or male in a female or male body (even if you want to change your gender, it is still important to have a solid understanding of the difference between a female and male body).  It is supremely important to know one’s nationality, one’s cultural background, one’s ancestry, one’s own personality in the sense of what you have pre-dispositions towards.  It is important to know that you prefer expressing Art a certain way.  It is important to know that you prefer a lighter shade of green to a dark forest green.  It is important to hold on to your Psyche’s identity as a personality and then put this in its place through your Yoga and Meditation practices.

I have definitely seen folks who try to let go of a lot of their personal identity in order to attain the great big I-AM.  And I see this as a mistake for many who are simply not at the level of consciousness to be able to handle this.  Instead what you get are “lost, listless, meandering souls.”  Not what we are aiming for here.  Nope.  So it’s important to marry Western psychology with Yoga psychology.  Especially in the modern world where so much of Western psychology is dominating.  We need to know how to marry these two beautiful worlds.

With so much Self-study – these two world become ONE.  And boundless healing happens.  In the end, we don’t “study” anything just for the sake of being “pundits” or “know it alls.”  Enough of this madness.  We study our Psyches, our minds, our souls and our spirits so that we may truly have Boundless Healing in our life and in our world.  Endless joy.  True peace.  And Beauty in our everyday life.

Svadhyaya – the study of the Self – which is one of the Niyamas (2nd limb of Patanjali’s 8-limb system) provides boundless healing when we can see our Self from multiple perspectives.  And see our place in a world of infinite Self(s) or Selfies (ha ha).  Ah the existential selfie.  So much love.  To the finite selfie and the infinite Self, we bow.

Om shantih om,



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