My Theme: Yoga. For those of you who don't know, I've been working on obtaining my yoga teacher's certification for the past year and am just a little over a month from graduating with my RYT200. As such, I figure there's no better way to spend this month than teaching you folks some of what I've learned.
One of the main purposes of yoga and meditation practices is to quiet the mind, a process described in many of the texts i've read as "yoking". Traditionally, yoking refers to the process of fitting an animal or two with a device used to attach a harness to them for the purpose of plowing, pulling or otherwise utilizing the power of the strong animal to do work. They use this word in reference to the mind because the same idea applies: the brain is incredibly powerful thing and we must harness its power in order to direct it energy towards a particular goal.
Here's the problem: most of us have no earthly idea how to do that. Usually our thoughts run free, unchecked, like the proverbial bull in a china shop (or ox if you're staying with the yoking metaphor) and we get stuck i patterns of thought that do not serve us. It's a condition we often refer to as "crazy monkey mind" because it feels like our thoughts skip from one thing to the next much like a money swinging from branch to branch- uncontrolled, scattered, and destructive.
Yoga, mindfulness, meditation and all the other techniques we practice within this realm are all designed with the same end: quieting that crazy monkey mind of ours. The techniques are varied but all have within them an element of distraction: giving the money something to do while you, the observer of the mind, do more important things. This is why we meditate- focusing on breath gives the mind something to do. This is is why we do asana (same goal). This is why we chant, create mandalas, hold mudras with our hands, etc. Yes, there's a ritual element to them, there are other things going on but the primary purpose is the same: "Here, brain- go do this. And I'll be over here, gaining a greater level of insight by watching you work."
Quiet is the space underneath the conscious activity where we finally have the ability to observe. And what we're observing here, from a non-mind space, is reality. We're seeking something called "clear sight" or "vidya" (see V) and it's why we do what we do.