Jnana Yoga And The Wisdom Of Aging Gracefully
Cover Photo By Le Minh Phuong.
By Sierra Wagner
Jnana yoga is about developing inner wisdom. Key concepts within it are that we are one; We are infinite; We are connected; We are perfect, whole and complete. Clarity comes from not veiling or covering over our most essential nature. One of the most common forms of suffering is from attachment to the finite realm of the senses, the body and the mind. Many of us internalize our physical, emotional and mental limitations, like our age, gender, sexual orientation, etc. and then feel ashamed of them. We can recognize that we are not our limitations. We are much more than that. When applying this to our hatha yoga practice, we can choice not to fight against our physical limitations, becoming more content with our bodies, and thus, not hurt ourselves by trying to get into a “better” or more “perfect” pose.
Put it into Action! Practice asana with focus on the breath. On each in-breath notice the pleasant sensations in your body. Maybe its the internal sensations of muscles and movement or maybe its the light in the room or the sounds of the music. With each out breath release tension, stress and any negative judgment of the pose. Release trying to make yourself do anything.
The book Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda has a chapter called “The Real Nature of Man.” It explores some concepts very relevant to spiritual practice. The idea that the “Real Man” is not a body or a mind, which both come and go, but is infinite Spirit is a useful idea to us because we are all in a state of aging. As we become elders our bodies and minds generally do not stay at the height of their previous function. If you were to look at what makes up your sense of yourself, what would that be; Your hair, your vocation, your family roles, your ethnicity? Labels like mom, sex symbol, wife, teacher, and buddhist are all illusions. They aren't who we really are. They are our attachments to who we think we are or who we want to be. Insight comes from not projecting onto ourselves or anyone else labels that limit our potential.
Put it into Action! Journal on your top three labels you have for ourselves that you are attached to and in what ways they are not serving you.
These characteristics are all impermanent. When we identify with impermanent things, when they change we are shaken. Our essence is not the ever-changing mind and body, “like rivers whose waters are in a constant state of flux . . . Change can only be in the limited, because any particle in the universe can change in relation to any other particle, but take the whole universe as a unit, as a whole, it can’t move, it can't change. . . Take the whole universe as one and in relation to what can it move?” - Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda
Knowing and remembering over and over again of our true nature gives us the ability to be more fearless. Vivekananda says, “when [a person] can say, “I am everything, in everybody, I am in all lives, I am the Universe.” then alone comes the state of fearlessness.” One of the most common mental illnesses as we age is a greater fear, anxiety and depression about what the future will bring and death inself. When we are connected with our true nature we feel joy. Joy is incredible healing on all levels of our being.
Put it into Action! Journal on your top three aversions to aging and how they are not serving you.