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The 5 Activities of the Mind

In the last couple of blogs we’ve discussed meditation and its many benefits. In the Clearing the Decks blog a process was described for practicing meditation and in last week’s blog, The Many Faces of Meditation, we talked about its purpose.

This week’s blog takes a more philosophical tone as we look at how Patanjali explained the mind in the first ever written “how-to” yoga book. Patanjali lived over 2,500 years ago and he wrote The Yoga Sutras to record what had been previously handed down by word of mouth

Yoga is about transformation. Asanas (postures) strengthen and transform our bodies. Pranayama (breathing) balances and transforms our breathing patterns. Meditation exposes and transforms our conditioning and refines our personalities. All three join together to form yoga. But, from a yogic perspective, asana and pranayama are in service of meditation because meditation is about controlling and transforming the mind.

What is the mind? According to Patanjali, the mind is a compilation of the activities (thoughts and functions) that occupy it. He goes on to explain there are five activities of the mind and each of them can be helpful or harmful.

Five Activities of the Mind

  1. Comprehension: This activity is when we use our senses to understand and have correct knowledge. When direct experience isn’t possible, we can understand correctly through outside, reliable sources.
  2. Misunderstanding: This activity happens when something we thought was correct turns out to be incorrect. As you might guess, this is the most frequent activity.
  3. Imagination: This activity involves understanding based strictly on words and expression. For example, when I say “time flies”, you know what I mean even though time doesn’t literally fly. Imagination also includes day dreaming, wishful thinking, fantasy and make believe and frequently comes from the memories of past experiences.
  4. Deep Sleep: This function refers to dreamless sleep that results in feeling refreshed and lucid upon waking.
  5. Memory: Here is where we store our conscious experiences. We can’t tell if our memory is true, false, incomplete or imaginary. Memory forms our perceptions, which become our reality.

These activities are states of mind and they change constantly. They are interrelated and complex. Each can, depending on the situation, be helpful or harmful.

We practice yoga to control the mind and stop these activities. Patanjali says the first step is to practice consistently. We are all capable of clear understanding but one thing or another frequently gets in the way. We’ll look at those interferences next week.

Enjoy and Breathe Easy




Joanne Thompson

Joanne Thompson

Founder/Owner at Yoga for Self

Health is a precious gift and my goal is to help you live a healthier, happier life through yoga. Every private session is uniquely designed just for you. For a free telephone consultation call me at 303.818.4181. Discover whether personalized, private yoga instruction is right for you.
Joanne Thompson

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