The first step of the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism begins with “Right View/Understanding” (Samma ditthi). It is only when an individual understands how things really are, that evolution and growth can commence.
Upon looking at the methods and techniques presented in the great repository of the Yoga Dharma, the inescapable message that is being conveyed points to our one and only valuable resource, our beliefs. A thorough reflection on the movements and behaviors that are expelled by us into the world, would reveal that they do not just emerge out of some nebulous cloud of random mental contents, but are actually reified by the underlying beliefs to which we are anchored. What we believe is what we value, and what we value reinforces our beliefs. We put on our seatbelts in the car because their efficacy in preventing injury has been instrumental in the belief that using them is important. We undertake the practice of Yoga because of the belief that physical ability is important to preserve in the striving to maintain health. Even our choice between eating one thing and another comes down to what we inherently value and believe about the final selection.
As human beings that endeavor to discover the agents that really make them tick, Yogis are tracing the chain of prior causes backwards to a bedrock of uncompromising essentials. This is where our values and beliefs are constructed. It is here that one finds out what actually assembles our values and beliefs. As much as it may be tempting to presume that we can consciously decide what we want to believe and value, a further analysis will show that we are cornered into them by our environment. When we believe that wearing seatbelts is important, it is the evidence of injuries incurred by the omission of wearing them that walks us helplessly to this belief. Similarly, we come to value Yoga practice because of the real life consequences that we know we would inherit if we did not care for our musculoskeletal function.
The invaluable lesson that is derived from coming to terms with this reality about ourselves, is the collaboration that is established between the world and our own selves. We are individuals that depend upon the world around us, in every conceivable way. Its temperature, texture, and form advises us on what is possible or not. The existence of gravity breeds the belief that flight is impossible without technology, and thereby ensures the value of avoiding cliff and rooftop edges. It is only by shirking these lessons that we run headlong into pain.
What Yoga teaches us is how to become even better listeners than what we have so far been able to marshall. It teaches us how to listen to the world around us, and act accordingly. In the same way that we discover the immutable law of gravity to which we are subjected, the discovery of anatomy and its relationship to physiology guides the trajectory of our efforts.
This doesn’t require unsubstantiated beliefs nor alliances with dogmas that our intuitions protest against. This requires us to simply listen to. We do this with our eyes, our skin, nose, and intellect, just as much as with our ears.