I’ve been reading a book called “The Atheist’s Way: Living Well without Gods” by Eric Maisel. I recommend this book to anyone who has considered him or herself to be a ‘spiritual atheist,’ because I have found a concept in this book that has changed my mind about how atheists should address ideas of ‘spirituality. Continue reading
I’ve said in a previous post that there is some tension present in being an atheist and a yogi. I think it’s more to the point to say there is tension between being a skeptic and a yogi. While in general the teachers whose classes I frequent usually stick with pretty non-controversial claims about the benefits of yoga, every now and then I hear things that make me smirk and squirm a little inside. Stuff like this (not exact quotes):
- We’re going to have a relaxed class today because it’s near the new moon. Our energy levels are lowest during the new moon.
- Anything about chakras.
- Anything about Kundalini.
- Anything about Ayurveda.
- Claims that any of the above must be real and good because it’s been practiced for 1000′s of years.
I’ve tolerated this stuff for the most part, and have even gone along with it for the sake of experimentation. I have found that, in general, these things have not been core to the classes. The chakra talk I can deal with as being symbolic for different areas and characteristics of the body. No problem. Same with Kundalini. The alternative medicine stuff does set me a bit on edge though. Especially when I read about things like this:
. Maybe I’ll ask my teacher about that. Were all these people just doing it wrong?
I’m into the holistic aspect of yoga, and this is why it’s been the only exercise program I’ve stuck with regularly going on two years now. I’m not in it “just for the workout,” it’s also about the mental and emotional benefit as well. I’m all for the non-rational–I don’t have to reason everything out and understand how everything works in order to accept it. What I can’t accept is the irrational. What if some of these things being practiced as part of yoga can actually be harmful?
When I meditate, this is what I do. I listen.
That’s probably too obscure, so I’ll explain what I mean. Think about a situation when you are listening to another person talk. If you don’t stop talking yourself, and stop thinking about what you want to say next, you can’t really be listening to what they are saying. When I first started meditating a few years ago, I noticed how noisy my mind was. When I stopped to observe what was going on in my head, I found it was like a never-ending cacophony. One thought after another, without end. No wonder I was so distracted so much of the time.
Now I am a firm believer in reason, and I was concerned about the idea that it is ever good to stop thinking, even for a little while. Stop thinking? That is how you get drawn in to irrationality and woo-woo. Never check your brain at the door!
But meditation is not “checking your mind at the door.” Stopping thinking is more like stopping talking for a while so that you can hear what is going on around you. So you can really listen. And I find that when I have stopped the incessent internal conversation, and really listened to what is going on, both inside and outside myself, I am prepared to be even more rational than ever.
With all the noise in my life, I really do enjoy the silence.