I fell in love with yoga for the intrinsic value in the exercise: the stretch, the focus, the breathing, the low-impact strengthening of my body. It just feels good and has helped me in life at times when I’ve felt like all else is lost. The “why” is not fully understood.

More recently, I’ve timidly decided to look closer, curious about the multi-millennia old philosophy, and wondering if the bulk of me which insists on empirical data would take to it. I’ve never been one to enjoy cognitive dissonance overmuch. I suspected I’d get a mindbend as well as backbend as I analyzed these concepts and either discard them as facts about some worldview I can’t subscribe to like all the religions I’ve studied, or, integrate them with my overall philosophy.

There is a concept in one form of yoga that I adore. I can’t adore everything about this form of yoga called Jnana Yoga, either because I just don’t have the context yet or it’s just not agreeable. But the first of the Four Pillars of Wisdom gave me hope: Viveka.

Viveka (discernment, discrimination) is a deliberate, continuous intellectual effort to distinguish between the real and the unreal, the permanent and the temporary, and the Self and not-Self.

I suspect that would warm the cockles of every science-oriented person out there. At least, it does mine. This concept inspires the research I’ve begun. By weeding through the idiosyncrasies that make up our interactions with the world, dig into the idea of a Person, and sort out how the material world is organized and interactive, I can definitely see myself fulfilling this concept in yogic philosophy.

Do not to discard the intuitive; rather, analyze it. Until all the facts are sorted, and likely even after that, there is still value in doing many things the old fashioned way (and in the case of yoga, the very old fashioned), with mindfulness as we wander through life, as we breathe and bend in our yoga practices, and as we think about the moment we’re in. How this will be different as we evolve further, I’ll be interested in finding out.

Still, all the while, we can grow in empirical awareness of biases and attempt to strengthen our minds against them, as well as false ideas of probability and numbers, replacing poorly-working heuristics with more meaningful ones, or other such mistakes of the mind. Still largely restricted by biological evolution, we are a creature of accident. Which means there is vast room to grow. Being mindful of this as we uncover more about our selves and the world around us, I think is a good goal.

Viveka, in a modern sense.


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