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The 5 Obstacles to Clarity

Last week I blogged about The 5 Activities of the Mind and that we practice yoga and meditation to quiet these activities to allow for clear perception. It’s easy to write these words but much more challenging in the implementation. We are human, after all, with the tendency to look at things from our own point of view, which may be accurate, or not. Our humanness creates obstacles that interfere with quieting the mind and seeing clearly.edinburgh_sunset_1

What does “seeing clearly” mean? What is it we are trying to “see” and why is “seeing” it important? Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” He didn’t pull any punches with that statement. He didn’t say an unexamined life could make it less meaningful. He said it’s not even worth living.

When I was in banking I read Forbes magazine and Malcolm Forbes included a quote on the editorial page of each issue, which has always stuck with me. “With all your getting, get understanding.”

Much has been written and discussed about the purpose of life. Our ancient ancestors, including Socrates, believed the purpose is personal and spiritual understanding and growth. They also believed and taught that we cannot grow toward “seeing” our true nature unless we take the time and create the space to reflect and meditate.

Examining our lives reveals patterns of behavior, both positive and negative. Until we examine these patterns we are doomed to repeat them – over and over again. Self-awareness makes us conscious of our patterns. The goal of yoga is to move from unconscious to conscious understanding so we “see” ourselves with clarity.

But there are roadblocks and obstacles along the way. Patanjali, author of the first written book on yoga, identifies five obstacles. The Sanskrit word for obstacles is klesas and 2,500 years later they still apply. In fact, given the hectic pace of our modern lives, they probably apply more than ever.

Five Obstacles to Clarity:

  1. Ignorance: This is the source of all obstacles. It begins the process and relates to confused identity. We’ve heard of highly career-focused people who die shortly after retirement. Their whole identity and sense of worth was wrapped up in their work and without it they had no sense of self. Several years ago my yoga teacher was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He refused to let it define him. In fact, he would say, “I am not my brain tumor.” (Fortunately, he is fine now) The point is our jobs, possessions, finances, health, etc are self with a small “s” not our true Self with a capital “S”. It is this identification with small “s” that keeps us ignorant. Self-reflection shines a light on that ignorance.
  2. Egoism: This is the first result of ignorance and mistaken identity. We are unable to separate our true “S”elf from our activities, thoughts, habits, surroundings and things. We are governed by external factors.
  3. Attachment: Then, our ego forms attachments to things or circumstances hoping that these pleasurable experiences will bring us permanent happiness. We often put much energy into “acquiring” only to discover it doesn’t lead to true, lasting happiness.
  4. Aversion: This is the opposite of Attachment but is still related to our desire to be happy and avoid painful experiences. With aversion our dislike continues, unexamined, long after the circumstances have changed.
  5. Insecurity: This is the innate feeling of anxiety for what is to come. Even positive change can be stressful. Self-reflection and knowing our true Self relieves the stress.

The path through these obstacles is not linear. Yoga provides the tools but we are human and there will be forward progress and backsliding. Patanjali says the key is to practice consistently.

I named my company Yoga for Self to honor the journey to our true Self.

Have a fun and safe Labor Day weekend.

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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