Yogic philosophy describes the play of the Universe as an interaction among the forces of activity, inertia, and balance. From the smallest particles to the majestic galaxies and beyond, all are manifestations of the dance of these elements. Notice that I did not say that all are subject to these forces. No, the incredible truth is that each and every thing, including humans, is a manifestation of action, withdrawal, and harmony. If you don’t believe me, just observe yourself. Every moment of our lives is driven by the desire to do something and the desire to rest. Some people are construed as being productive; some are seen as being lazy; and there is every nuance in between. One moment I am motivated to speak or clean my house (rarely) or read or exercise and the next moment, to lay on the couch or sleep or eat . . . the list is endless.
What is the implication of this for our well-being? One may conclude that the moral of the story is to consciously seek a balance between activity and rest, and certainly that is beneficial to well-being. But on a deeper level, the really helpful part is to watch when our attention gets kidnapped from its place of repose as the Inner Observer. What do I mean by this? Well, integral to yogic philosophy is the concept that each one of us is actually a locus of Consciousness that is watching the play of these forces, not an entity unto ourselves. In other words, this philosophy calls into question our very existence as separate. Like Copernicus who realized that the sun is the center of the solar system, not the Earth, the thing that I call me, doesn’t actually exist as anything substantial. My egoic personality is manifesting in this world as a dance of transient forces. From this worldview, the goal is not the construction of a healthy ego, but rather ego transcendence.
What does exist is my awareness of this grand action adventure. The implication of this understanding is beautifully articulated by St. Teresa of Avila in the following excerpt from The Interior Castle (Fourth Dwelling, Chapter 3):
Let’s say that the senses and faculties, which are the inhabitants of the interior castle, have gone outside. Let’s say they have been hanging around for days and years with strangers who despise all that is beautiful about the castle. When they realize their error, they come back. But before they can reenter the castle, they have to break the bad habits they have been accumulating. . . it is much easier to find God inside ourselves instead of looking for him in created things.
So when my awareness (“senses and faculties”) goes outside to play, I get lost in the drama of life, taking things personally, then defending my ego or asserting my ego (trying to manipulate outcomes) and thereby causing my ego to suffer when it reacts with other naturally manipulative egos. Sounds confusing? Well, the alternative is to watch life unfold from the center of Consciousness (the interior castle), simply noticing when my ego gets triggered and my body feels emotions as a result. Can I let things pass through without going outside to play (getting sucked into the drama)? Can I take care of what my body and emotions need without assigning meaning to the interplay of it all? This is what Richard Rohr and countless mystics have called the witness consciousness. This is finding “God inside ourselves.”
From this seat of awareness, life becomes an amazing wonder to behold. God within us—in this paradigm, Consciousness Itself—delights in the play of activity, inertia, and balance, in a word, creation. Psychologically speaking, when we can live from this perspective, a depth of appreciation and gratitude wells up from within us and the peace that surpasses understanding enfolds us. Then Paul’s directive to “rejoice in the Lord always” makes complete sense, is in fact, the only thing that makes sense. For truly, Consciousness Itself is One with its creation.