Facing the Gestapo at his door, the man spoke with confidence and authority, “No Jews here”. The man was of course lying. A family of Jews had been living in the basement for many months.
This story was a point of great discussion between my father and I when I was about 10. We were driving to a nearby town. Dad to play golf and me to be his caddy. (Reflecting on this as I write, I am asking myself, why did I want to go with my father on that trip.. did I like doing it, or did I do anything to have one on one time with my father?.. reflections now that are also coloured by my memories of his life weeks before his death, and his death itself).
On the road trip the story was part of an interview on the radio involving a priest and survivor of the holocaust. The interview was a rationalization of the ‘lie’ told by the man to the Gestapo. The priest used the term “Meta Truth”. I was intrigued. (We were a “good” Catholic family – was this priest saying it was okay to lie?)
The conversation with my father and my memories of the interview about “Meta Truth” greatly influenced me. Right and wrong were not black and white. The bigger and broader our understanding the less likely we were to judge something as good or bad. (And I hope you haven’t made the assumption that my Dad was good at broadening his perception of things.. he wasn’t. He was the most “black and white” type of human imaginable).
What enables us to lie with conviction? When is a lie not really a lie? Within a Meta analysis, is anyone responsible for anything? Are humans capable of being completely honest?
And with all we have heard in recent years about Priests and their capacity to rationalize lies to protect others, serious questions must also arise in our own hearts and minds about who we protect with our lies and why – what is it that we have to lose or gain from a lie. Where does the power to lie, and get away with it, come from? Is it only socially constructed power, or how much does the element of personal conviction determine the effectiveness of a lie?
This is the stuff that Yoga is made of.
When we practice Abhyasa and Vairagya (Disciplined action and renunciation) – which by the way are “The Yoga Practices” as noted in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali I.I2 “Abhyasa vairagyabhyam taniroodhah” – we learn to accept the complexity of being human. Through acceptance we develop the ability to question our memories and to dismantle the conviction of our lies. As we hone our skills of discernment and tap into deep forces that pertain to balance, stability, heaviness, lightness, we are actually meeting fear and desire. We feel the tap of ignorance on our shoulder. Our perception of experience and the experience itself are not the same things. We know this in the very cells of our being… it is no longer a construct of understanding. It is an experiential truth. We can confidently and calmly accept that our mental faculty (memory and emotions) are bias. That our mental view is a construction that functions to keep our ego intact.
Cognition - through the lens of memory and emotion obscures the purity of wisdom from experience. The very gift of being able to think, becomes a system of betrayal. To exist within experience alone, devoid of memory and emotions about how great or terrible a situation is,… well I would say, is impossible. But this is not a problem is it? As we practice this is what we re-cognise. We experience the desiring mind; the flood of self judgement; and.. we re-focus our attention to actions that locate us in the present. The moment. The energy.. our mental juice.. our concentration harnessed – not through desire to perfect the pose… harnessed through a willingness to surrender oneself.
Our stories about experiences can be dismantled through our practice. When concentration becomes meditation, we free energy trapped by our memories and lies and new light shines on experiences. Our cells and tissues change as vibrationally we re-cognise the experience from a place of safety and love; a place of completeness and ease of Being. Making peace with ourselves is a courageous and revolutionary process. It is the path walked by a Yogi, day to day moment by moment. If we don’t trust ourselves, we cannot trust anyone else.
Yoga is the lay persons neuroscience - Yogis have known for centuries that there are layers of mental activity that can be harnessed and directed. When attention becomes concentration and concentration establishes a pause between the rise and fall of thoughts, we arrive into a state known as meditation. The interconnections between the layers of consciousness create the conditions for wisdom.. it arises in the pause, in the interruption of habitual thought.
“As soon as there is stopping, there is happiness. There is peace. When we stop like that, it looks as if nothing is happening, but in fact everything is happening. You are deeply established in the present moment, and you touch your cosmic body. You touch eternity. There is no more restlessness, no more seeking.” Thich Nhat Hanh