A blog about nothing.
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates
Who am I?
My name is Becky, and I’m a beginning yogi and yoga teacher who knows nothing, but understands a little. I'm autistic and currently learning how this part of my identity affects the way I learn and practice yoga, but this blog is not really about autism or neurodiversity; it's about my attempts to understand yoga philosophy. I'm a shameless over-thinker who likes to absorb information about psychology, nature, and quantum physics, and this gets tangled into my yoga practice. I get excited when I learn something new and I forget that I don't know anything; in fact, sometimes I think I know quite a lot. Today I think I know some stuff. I might change my mind about all of it tomorrow.
What I think I know right now is this: the physical world of our senses that we think of as reality is a collection of connections. We aren’t made of matter and energy, but of interactions (events) that create relationships at the quantum level which weave time and space together. It’s from the connections that make up the fabric of spacetime that our human-scale world emerges as a visible and concrete experience. What we think we know as humans is always going to be incomplete because we simply don’t have access to the whole picture from where we exist as physical beings; we can’t step outside of ourselves, or outside of our universe, to get the whole perspective. Our perspective is limited to one little dot within the universe, separate in time but connected in space. Each of us are an "I" within a "we."
What I learn by exploring quantum physics is the source of curiosity and wonder that drives my personal yoga practice to deeper levels; from here, I tap into my bliss. However, feeling good isn't all there is to yoga. Despite the fact that my reality is so much more wonderfully weird than it seems, I am still a human being who exists, breathes, loves, and suffers along with the rest of my community. I have physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs that are constantly demanding my attention. Our world has real problems: global warming really is threatening the planetary ecosystem, and systems of oppression like racism and ableism are destroying human society. We share a collective reality, but we perceive that reality in very different ways, which can make it tough to communicate our individual experiences with one another. It's difficult for us to understand or consider the experiences of people who see a very different world from us, but yet live in the same houses, neighborhoods, cities, and countries. Quantum physics says that this disconnect is because we are separate in time but connected in space (quite literally); we share a collective physical reality but not a collective sense of time. When we are attached to our experience of time, we suffer, and because our nervous systems have evolved to use the past to predict the future and keep us us on a course that will ensure survival, we are inevitably very attached to time.
Who are you?
You are a single perspective of the universe at one point in time and space. At the quantum level, you’re an incredibly complex event: a collection of connections in spacetime that forms a thinking, feeling human being, with a full range of human emotions. At the human level, you have crappy days and happy days; you feel love and fear, and you have moments of pride and moments of shame. Your experience of all of these feelings is entirely unique to you in time, even if they are shared with other human beings in space.
This means that we can only know our own personal experiences as individual beats of consciousness in time and space. We listen to others who share their perspectives and we do our best to piece together what we already know from our own experience in order to try and understand them. We even use our feeling body to empathize with what we imagine that they are feeling, but we can't be another person... we can't know exactly what they know. No one else can know exactly what you or I know and feel because each moment in time is an event that happens only to us and not to anyone else... isn't that worth exploring and wondering about? I think so.
The philosophy behind "Know Thyself" goes beyond emotions and physics, and dips into the realm of the spiritual, or unknown. It's a marriage of Western and Eastern ideas; an understanding of yoga philosophy within the context of quantum physics. It's personal to me and probably meaningless to you, because I know nothing outside of my own nervous system.
I decided to call this yoga project Know Thyself because the aphorism is a symbol of the intellectual and philosophical pursuits that led me to yoga by way of ancient Greece and the Western culture in which I was born, but it has deeper parallels within Eastern culture and yoga itself, specifically yoga philosophy and the path of Jnana yoga, as well as the practice of Svadhyaya, or self-study. While I do engage in the physical practice of yoga, I spend a lot of time in my head, and it turns out that the physical practice of yoga is much more fulfilling when combined with mental and intellectual practices that exercise my ability to wonder, think, and perceive.
To know yourself requires study of consciousness itself-- of the knower within each of us. Our consciousness bridges both time and space, and our consciousness is how we find the “I” within the “we” and begin to sense both our separateness and connectedness in spacetime. Our consciousness knows nothing beyond the present moment in time; it has no memory or dread about the future. Our consciousness is like an inner scientist who is capable of exploring, observing, wondering, and coming to deep understandings about our own existence that change the way we see reality forever. Consciousness research is where science meets spirituality; the right brain merges with the left brain, the body unifies with the mind and spirit, and space and time coalesce, combining emotion and knowledge into wisdom and understanding. Studying your conscious self is an amazing way to show up for the experience of being human.
Making My Own Path
Earlier this year when I was being interviewed as part of a psychological evaluation, I was asked what my life goals are. I responded that I don't have any; "I am just kind of here for the experience of being a human being." I think that's still pretty accurate, but this personal philosophy is starting to illuminate a path forward in time that is more specific. I am finding a calling to use my human experience and yoga practice to tackle issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion with a specific interest in neurodiversity. It's impossible to draw a picture of all the connections and events that led me here, to today, to this moment, but I wouldn't be writing about this now without the practice of self-study and my fascination with "consciousness research."
Svadhyaya (self-study) is the Niyama I connect with most deeply because of my innate curiosity to know and understand my own human experience. Self-study is where my inner scientist thrives. This is what draws me to the path of Jnana yoga (knowledge), where my thinking brain can help me connect information in the form of knowledge in order to explore the nature of physical reality and take moments of shelter in wonder and joy. However, the historical practices of Jnana yoga are difficult for me to access and little understood in the Western world; when I try to read the spiritual texts I tend to lose myself in heady philosophy. That's okay; I am still learning. The same goes for my passion for physics; my mind is not well-focused and I am very easily distracted by the senses and emotions. There may be moments when I think I've glimpsed the true nature of reality and even some moments when I feel a sense of deep understanding beyond time, but when I am going about my daily life, I mostly forget this knowledge and I wander back into old patterns of avoiding pain and rejection, and seeking connection and acceptance. This is human, and it's where we all begin our journey.
If you exist in a human nervous system there's no getting out of being a human, which means I can't stay up in my own head forever. I also need to attend to my body and participate in my community, and these activities are important components of yoga practice and self-study. Self-study is far from self-centered, and shows us as much about the "we" as it does about the "I." The practice of Svadhyaya has shown me very clearly that I am part of a bigger whole, and I have a responsibility to center the fullness of human experience in my yoga practice (not just my own). I can't just bliss out all day in a place of privilege, ignoring my oppressed neighbors, and call myself enlightened.
Our reality is a ultimately a collective one where we find the "I" in the human experience of time, and the "we" in our experience of interconnected space. For now, Know Thyself is starting out with the basics. My practice is about getting to know the “I” within the “we,” and understanding how I am connected to the world around me by observing and noticing the consequences of my own actions. My nervous system is my lab equipment and my consciousness is the scientist. My yoga practice is also about teaching my inner scientist to take control of my nervous system in order to consciously steer my decisions and responses toward those that will feed and strengthen the connections around me, rather than just reacting to old and illusory versions of reality stored in my memory. The aim of my practice is to get deep, but I have to start where I am today: struggling with mental health and still learning to take care of my basic human needs. I don’t know myself very well yet, but that is okay. That's the practice, and for the time being, I am honored to share what I don't know. :)