Objectification and Yoga

I’ve been meditating recently on how better to describe the type of yoga I practice – and its relation to all the other ‘yoga’ out there.  An intuition has been evolving and recently distilled itself into this:


My yoga is decidedly not the objectification of yoga.  In fact, it can encompass all yoga that moves away from the objectification process – whether it is aimed at the body, the spirit, money, relationships, society, truth, the compulsion to objectify is itself perhaps our greatest ailment.  


Words are inherently objectifying, as is all representation — including images, videos, and other recordings, whether mental or in other media.  There is a direct experience of one’s own Truth, of Life filled with Joy and Creativity, Sorrow and Stuckness,  the real Truth of our human grandeur and frailty that is at the heart of yoga.


A reverence for this full, direct experience of the deepest Truth is what my personal path of yoga means to me.   People on any path can share in this reverence for that deep Truth– not just self-avowed yogis.   I recognize it instantly when I see it in myself and others – it’s the very best thing.  Young children almost always have it.


The objectification of yoga is an inevitable consequence of 3000 years of scientific and philosophical discourse which began with Greek Atomists, crystallized by Aristotle, as well as the Indian Vaisheshika philosophers, who articulated an approach that objectifies the entire universe.  It turns out this view is immensely useful for the manipulation of the physical world, and thus underpins much of modern science, technology and economy.  It is, however, not the whole story. 


The assertion of the objectifying view is that there are things and voids in between them.  This makes Me different than You, and lets me use you, whether you are a person, corporation, animal, or other thing.   So we objectify one another – economically (through buying and selling ourselves without regard for each other’s true well-being), socially (through status-seeking, in-group formation, and ostracism whether forced or suggested), physically (through fantasy and violence, perpetrated often first and most on ourselves) — in myriad ways.


The assertion of the yogic view is that there is but one Thing, a deep, interwoven Unity of which we are all apart.  All that ultimately separates us is our very own notion that we are apart, not reality itself, which is One.  In this view, I participate in a Universal field that is Loving, Respectful, Hopeful, Creative, Playful, Sexy, Beautiful, True.  


When I am awake to this reality, what comes clear is the absurdity of thinking everything is cut off from everything else, that I can succeed with the approach of objectifying anyone or anything for very long.    It just doesn’t. 


Objectification is a very useful intellectual tool for mathematical analysis of relationships in a chemical laboratory or an economic transaction, but it is not the whole story.  Yoga teaches me to embrace and include, but never stop, with the objectified version of reality.


There’s always something Truer and deeper as well.   The practices of yoga are intended to awaken a bit more into that Truth.  My teacher, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi, has said, “It’s easy to wake up someone who is sleeping, but very difficult to wake up someone pretending to be asleep.”


I think we have, especially among the scientific and economic materialists in the Western mindset, taken objectification far too far, and in a sense, a big part of world politics and economy, and consequently, many people’s notions of personal security, are built upon it.   And we have pretended for too long to be asleep to this deeper truth of ourselves, of Life and the Universe.


It’s time to for me to assert that objectification is useful as an analytic technique, but only to a point.  As I do, I’m finding a deep happiness and passionate desire to be alive and of loving service to all Creation comes and stays when I acknowledge and embrace this Truth.  And that to me is the real point of all yoga.

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