“Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.” ~ Leo Tolstoy
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” ~ Albert Einstein
The dichotomy of perception and truth has been argued for time immemorial. One person’s truth is another person’s perception. Or is it the other way around? Differentiating between these two concepts is precarious because none of us are able to view the world around us objectively. This lack of objectivity is what makes great artists, philosophers, yogis, lovers, fighters, writers, musicians, and creators. However, the lens through which we view existence also represents a filter which can obscure our ability to seek Truth if, in fact, this is our objective.
Perception is a viewpoint that the mind constructs to help it interpret the data derived from the five senses. It puts the spin on the data, giving one an emotional interpretation of every situation in which one participates. In our daily lives, we use our senses, whether we have five or fewer, and our brain’s interpretation of the data taken by these senses to help us navigate through life.
We filter our interaction with the world through the lens of perception. In simplest terms, this means that our interpretation of existence is comprised of every perception that we have created in our mind to date. This helps us to form a linear timeline of our lives in color, emotions included. These perceptions allow us to create a mental formulation of our existence, thereby supporting the idea that our existence is created using the building blocks of perception.
Taking this one step further, if one considers the timeline that the mind has created, one must also consider the conditions that exist in this timeline that guide how the mind will perceive experiences of the future. These conditions add yet another filter to what is interpreted, which potentially alters perception of future experience. To clarify this further, in the very literal sense, we have conditioned autonomic responses to obvious physical circumstances.
If you place your hand on a burning stovetop and burn yourself, the conditioned response of the future will be to hesitate or check the stove temperature before placing your hand there. While this is pretty cut and dry, the waters become murkier as we delve into conditioned autonomic emotional responses. Here, the level of subjectivity is greatly increased. Whatever emotional conditioning we have received throughout our lives will directly affect how we choose to handle experiences of the future.
However, unlike refraining from touching a hot stovetop, can we be sure that these emotional responses are the correct ones? Are the filters we have put in place positively or negatively affecting our ability to handle or view situations appropriately? How can we remove these filters or determine that our responses are appropriate? These questions are hugely representative of why I, and so many others, have come to utilize the practice of yoga. The tools available in the yoga practice can greatly help a seeker of truth find the path to enlightenment by looking past the illusion of perception.
In the practice of yoga, the 8-limbed teachings are constructed in such a way as to help us gradually draw inward and focus on that which resides there. Employing this approach assists with removal of the societal practice of using the external to measure the truth of what surrounds and exists within us. When we view things from an internal perspective and recalibrate what we consider to be true, in its purest sense, it becomes possible to remove the perceptions that continually stymie us from having a base understanding of what is happening in the moment. The practice of the yogic breath is a conduit through which we can connect with the seemingly intangible wave of existence absent of perception and replete with peace and truth. Some would say that connecting with this wave is akin to finding the path of enlightenment.
Simply put, the practice of yoga can assist with removing the influence of external perception. This removal can help the practitioner find Truth and potentially the ability to view something without the subterfuge of perception.
Stop and think about that for a moment. The practices we study, beginning and ending with the breath we take, can help us to dismantle the barriers of external perception and see through to internal truth.
The illusive pursuit of truth has been a part of the human adventure since the beginning of time. People have gone to the ends of the Earth in attempts to find it. But the real Truth…the one that helps us connect with our higher Self, the one that allows us to see clearly without the filter of perception, exists within each and every one of us right here, right now.
Unlock yourself from perception. Seek your internal Truth. Breathe.
Andrew Gurvey is an Engineer for the Fire Protection Division of Underwriters Laboratories by day, and a yoga teacher by night. Andrew has been a student of yoga for 6 years, and a teacher for 1. Andrew’s arrival to the yoga mat was a long and winding road that has since turned into a powerful, focused journey. You can read his full bio via his website, http://www.balancefire.com or connect with him via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/balancefire.