Watch your ‘Thoughts’, they become words.
Watch your ‘Words’, they become actions.
Watch your ‘Actions’, they become habits.
Watch your ‘Habits’, they become character.
Watch your ‘Character’, for it becomes your Destiny.
– Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
“Watching” is a valuable tool which empowers a meaningful
life by cultivating a sense of awareness within ourselves. Regular practice of
Yoga enables us to establish awareness in our mind, body, emotions, breath and
inner self, allowing us to take charge of our mind. Yoga asanas, when performed
in full awareness, provides a gentle massage to internal organs, releasing blocked
energy, connecting the postures to the breathing, and finally connecting the
life forces to the mind. Through awareness, we cultivate the ability to see, to
feel, to be with the things as they are, shifting our perspective in everything.
Being a dedicated Ashtanga practitioner over the last 3
years, I experienced tremendous changes in my life, particularly my sense of
awareness in my physical body, emotions and feelings, as well as the awareness of
the people around me. Awareness is a powerful tool that has rewired my brains
which shifted my thoughts and actions for the better.
1) Awareness of my physical body.
“Feel, and listen to your body”, as my teacher always say. Initially, this
phrase sounds to me like a typical catchphrase that any yoga teacher would say
during Savasana. Me, on the other hand, experience this phenomenon first hand.
I noticed that over the years, my body began to develop a stronger sense of
physical awareness. For examples, I discover that my stomach began to reject
strong coffees, alcohol, cigarettes, over-eating, and overly simulating food; I
am sleeping early (11pm) and waking up early (5am); I am aware of what is my
physical body limit in my asana practice; I am aware of my attachments to
certain physical body and material goods; and I am aware of my eating habits,
choice of food, enabling me to have a better control over my overall lifestyle.
In addition, sometimes I could feel the vibration in different parts of my
body, as if they were trying to communicate with me to practise Ahimsa; it is a
strange feeling that come after years of practice.
2) Awareness of my emotions and feelings
Being the youngest child in my family, and carrying the genes of a hot-tempered
father, my family and close friends have always known me as a hot-tempered
person. While I tried to read many self-help books to control my anger in my
earlier 20s, none of them actually helps, without appropriate execution.
However, over the 3 years of regular yoga practice, my emotional awareness has
increased tremendously, such that I do not necessarily react to my anger, even if
I am feeling angry. I do not necessarily react to my sadness, even though I am
feeling depressed. I do not necessarily react to my sexual needs, even though I
am feeling horny. And strangely, sometimes I do not even react to my happiness,
even though I am feeling delighted – I simply enjoy the moment, and let it pass,
for I know that now I have the ability control my mind and my subsequent
actions. I am aware of my own awareness. I guess this is also an important
aspect of Pratyahara.
3) Awareness of the people around me
As a researcher by profession, I am curious and observant by nature. While
watching people, I could speculate certain characteristics from certain people.
However, what yoga taught me was different, which is to see through a
person. For example, I used to think that a young person sitting on the
reserved seat in the MRT is inconsiderate and selfish. However, such a thought
is actually superficial and judgemental. When I learned the true meaning of
seeing through a person, I began to realize that behind every action, there are
different intention. There are people who are not aware of his/her actions;
there are people who have issues which cannot be seen from the outside; and there
are also people who are truly selfish and have no consideration for others. Whatever
the reason is, it is not important; I have no control over others’ actions, I
do not need to control others’ actions, the only controls I have are my own mind
and actions. Do not let our emotions control our mind and actions. Live and let
For anyone who are interested to learn more about awareness
and mindfulness, I recommend a book entitled “The Miracle of Mindfulness”
written by a Vietnamese Zen monk by the name of Thich Nhat Hanh.