The mind is fallible. More and more this is being proven by science. Biases and cognitions which enable the mind to think quickly also disable the mind from thinking logically, rationally, and with accuracy. This is not all the time, but probably, most of the time.
Many spiritual teachings speak to the fallibility of the mind. This is fascinating in many ways as most spiritual schools have been around for centuries and these scientific discoveries that prove the value of their teachings have only come about in recent decades. For example;
Yoga Sutra 1:8 Viparyayo Mithyananam Atadrupa Pratistham
Misconception occurs when knowledge of something is not based upon its true form.
A simple explanation of this Sutra is to consider a time when you saw a figure in the dark that looked like a person looming creepily in the shadows. In fear perhaps you recoiled, asked someone else to awake and go look at it, grabbed something to protect yourself with, and then hid. I have done this. Then perhaps you or the someone whom you awoke turned on a light only to find it was a coat hanging just the right way with a hat and shadows dancing to create the illusion of danger. This is an exaggerated example but I think you get the picture.
In the world of psychology and behavioral economics cognitive biases are the realms of thought that lead to deviations from good and rational judgement, i.e. lead to misconceptions. The list of currently known and confirmed cognitive biases is too long to include here, but is easy enough to research on your own if you are interested. What is interesting about this research is the evidence that it is a part of the neural wiring of the brain to make jumps that lead to error. Even more interesting is the capacity of the brain to become aware of error and reset its course to clarity.
This is where yoga or any mindfulness practice comes in. A consistent and committed pursuit toward more mindfulness and therefore away from failures or missteps of cognition can and will lead to less misconceptions. Patanjali’s sutras recommend eight steps toward this goal.
- Yama : Ways of being with community
- Niyama : Ways of being with self
- Hatha Yoga : Asana
- Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
- Pratyahara : Control or withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
- Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation
- Samadhi : Union with the Divine/ Ultimate Liberation
The pursuit of step eight as well as the course set by all eight steps aw a journey away from misconception and disabling cognitive biases is a life long, or even multi-lifelong journey. How many successes you achieve, or how many times you misstep along the way are easy distractions, yet not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to know yourself. To know you are human and therefore fallible and imperfect, and to also know that in the company of your imperfections you are also Divine and perfect. To live in this world of paradox, misconception, and unanswered questions, and to find peace in the midst of torrent that is life. This is the ultimate aim as well as the gift of the work.
With Love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy!