I previously wrote on “Refinement” (http://cindylusk.com/refinement/) and in the 3+ years since, I have refined my understanding of refinement. This points to precisely the process of refinement: it is a continuing process, and in that process there are many stages. And as I previously argued, this process of refinement applies to all aspects of your life. And yoga, particularly meditation, is a key means to facilitating refinement.
We all know this to a large degree on the surface of our lives. Take our bodies for example: many of us are continually refining our diet toward more healthy habits. Likewise with exercise.
As I discussed previously, our yoga asana practice is a continuing process of refining. We learn how to correctly align our bodies to an optimal pose, when to back off, and when to go deeper. We refine our ability to listen to our bodies.
Also in many varieties of yoga asana, we learn to work with our breath, which brings a deeper level of refinement. As we listen more deeply to our breath we notice its rhythm, if we’re holding it or it is agitated, etc. This somewhat more subtle avenue of awareness allows for refinement on a deeper level, as we begin to notice more subtle shifts in our being and awareness.
Our thinking also undergoes refinement. As we apply our minds to any subject, our understanding is refined. This is the process of vikalpa samskara: the refinement of our conceptual understanding of anything, be it it technical, philosophical or artistic.
To have maximum capacity for refining our lives and understanding on many levels, the yogic texts argue that we must refine ourselves. If the instrument we are using for refinement, our body-mind, is itself unrefined, then the results of using it to refine other aspects will be less than optimal. It is as if you’re using a blunt instrument to do fine work. To some degree it will work, but the results will be messy and unrefined.
The practice of meditation works to do this in many ways. First of all, the practice itself begins to rearrange and clarify our awareness. I think of one result of meditation as clearing a pathway to our highest self. So, first, meditation is like a cosmic cleaning service that clears out old, no longer useful patterns in our life. This includes anything that hinders our access to that pathway or connection to the highest part of our self.
And then, having established that connection, we are better able to access the wisdom and guidance that resides in that highest part of ourself. All of this allows us to begin to make better choices and generally just get clearer, which is the engine of refining our lives at the surface. Everything is impacted. As we access our hearts we can relate better to others. Our decisions are more aligned with our core such that we refine our lives to be more fulfilling.
Ultimately the connection and clarity allows us to be a conduit for sharing our highest potential and we find ourselves creating refinement not only in our own lives, but in the world at large.
Thus our practices enable the process of refinement for us individually to create a healthier and happier life. Through the alignment with our highest self that we contact with practice, we begin to fulfill our life’s purpose. Each of us has the opportunity to create a more fulfilling life that also can contribute to bringing forth in this lifetime our own unique talents and gifts.
May we each seek greater refinement and alignment with our highest self, for ourselves, for those with whom we interact, and to create a better world for everyone.