By Luigi Lungo CYT 250
My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when she was 85 years old. Within two years she was in a general ward of a nursing home and then in their dementia unit. Luckily for her and the family the disease has not progressed quickly and really the only symptoms she has is short term memory loss and slowness of thoughts.
Amazingly however, is that a side effect of the disease appears to be a ‘removal’ of her past conditioning making her a more loving and less troubled person ! I believe that not only is she happier now but all those around her.
We are all the products to varying degrees of our past conditioning. I know I am. I grew up in a household where our mother wore the pants and ruled with an iron fist. Friends did not want to visit and we were continually criticised and chastised. All three children left home before they turned 20.
It wasn’t until I visited my mother’s European village and met her sisters that I realised that they were all like mum. They were all a product of their strict upbringing. Those that do not question their behaviour go on to perpetuate the problem. Others however have seen the pattern of conditioning and have sought to rectify it through such things as therapy; self-help groups and Yoga. Yoga has helped me to identify my past conditioning and steered me away from that path.
Donna Farhi expresses it beautifully in her book ‘Bringing Yoga To Life’ when she says:
“When we’re witnessing from this neutral, non-presumptive place, the “me” is absent – the me being whatever collection of things I have stockpiled to make up my identity (which itself is created through another subset of assumptions). This assumed identity consists of opinions, judgments, likes, dislikes, narcissistic imaginings, and all kinds of largely unconscious conditioning. The process we call Yoga is one of deconstruction – removing these assumed identities. More accurately, the assumed identities cease to operate. Because the “me” that is usually the culprit in creating this mess in the first place is being deconstructed through the practice of Yoga, over time the superimposed identities simply fall away of their own accord.”
It has been often said that Yoga is not just the practice of postures or asanas. It is a multi-layered practice taking in not only asana but the other limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga system. This wholistic approach to Yoga allows the ‘deconstruction’ process as described by Donna Farhi, a process which will peel away the layers of conditioning to reveal the true you. This is akin to the dusty mirror that reflects a distorted view. The clear reflective mirror has always been there but has been covered with the dust of conditioning. Sometimes over many years. With Yoga we wipe clean the mirror and the true you or self is reflected back.
It is a pleasure to visit my mother weekly with my wife and three young children. We are greeted by a beautiful happy woman who is not tormented by anger; jealousy; shame or bitterness but who is content and joyful. Her disease has removed the layers of her 80 + years of conditioning.
We don’t need to wait for some organic change within our brain to reveal our true loving self. Through the practice of Yoga we can start that deconstruction of our conditioning irrespective of the number of layers involved and we can be happier and also we can make those around us happier.