Discernment is an important practice on the path of yoga. It is a process we find and develop in our higher minds naturally as we move through life. As children we don’t have a lot of discernment, we just do what is right in front of us. Along the way we recognize the actions and thoughts that are more supportive of our life force and what doesn’t feel so good to do.
As we move along a life guided by spiritual principles we recognize that we are the ones in control of our minds and our decisions are our own. Through discernment we begin to learn from our life experiences. We can see through our habits and patterns (in Sanskrit known as saṁskāras). We begin to understand that the experiences and the patterns are not our True Selves. In truth, we are not limited by them, even though most of the time we submit to them.
A practical way of focusing on our discernment is through our asana practice. We are focusing on Trikoṇāsana or Triangle Pose this month at Maitri Yoga. There are so many opportunities to tap into our viveka or our discernment in this pose! We can look for our patterns of habitual practice to come forth and then decide if they are working for us or if we want to make some changes in order to progress.
- Do we tend to belly dump?
- Do you reach the lower hand to the floor even if it means losing the integrity of the pose?
- Do you lock your knees?
- Can you use your discernment to determine if you have gone too far in the pose or perhaps not far enough?
- Does your ego tell you “Don’t use the block-that’s cheating!” If so, can your wisdom body (vijñānamaya kośa) tell you that it is ok to use a block even if you haven’t in the past?
Your intuition guides your higher mind and your ability to discern what is right in the moment. Listen to the wisdom of your body guiding your physical yoga practice. Intuition shines a light on your discerning intellect (buddhi) and is a connection point between your lower mind and your highest self. Viveka is the crown jewel of your mind and knowing yourself fully, it is the mediator between the small “i” self and the big “I” Self.
On this path of knowing yourself fully, the Yoga Sutras give us an interesting take on this topic of discernment. In chapter 2, verse 15 Patanjali states:
“To one of discernment, everything is painful indeed, due to its consequences: the anxiety and fear over losing what is gained; the resulting impressions left in the mind to create renewed cravings; and the constant conflict among the three gunas, which control the mind.”
We’ve all felt this before when the world felt like it was controlling us, we felt out of control and life was hard. As the light of the soul shines through us and illuminates the mind we shift from everything being painful as Patanjali puts it, to everything is good. Yes, the world offers only temporary joys and pleasures and losing them can cause pain – if that is your perspective. In reality though, our discerning minds tell us nothing is bad in this world. This universe gives us everything we need to be our best selves. It is a training ground. Pleasure and pain are but an outcome of our perspective and approach. Everything comes to us in just the right way and at just the right time (even if you don’t think so in the moment).
With practice, our discernment becomes our guiding light, guiding each of us towards the ultimate goal of life – union with all that is. Our minds and egos work with us on our path towards better health, well-being and spirituality. To one of discernment, everything is all good. When we come to this understanding we receive the “magic wand to convert everything to happiness.”
Have you noticed any of this naturally occurring on your path of yoga? I’d love to hear your thoughts, concerns, and questions on this deep topic! Please share!
See you on the inside,
 The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Translation and Commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda, Integral Yoga Publications, Yogaville, VA, 2005, page 102.