Quest for Reflection

9 March 2014

After expressing to a fellow yogi that I was really interested in yogic philosophy but was a little frustrated because I was having trouble understanding even some of the most basic concepts, he recommended that I read Stephen Cope’s Yoga and the Quest for True Self. If you are like me and have been irritated trying to grapple with the yogic worldview, this book is a great place to start.

Cope explains in the introduction to the book how, when first exploring yoga, he sought a clear and pertinent explanation of yogic philosophy as it relates to Western culture. He could not find a resource that really addressed how the yogic worldview directly informed his life experience in the United States. This being at odds with the fact that yoga was becoming ever more popular across the nation. Yoga and the Quest for True Self is his answer to this need, and the book provides a thorough examination of the intersection between yogic philosophy and Western theories in clinical psychology.

In the prologue, Cope introduces the Indian parable “Viveka’s Tale;” and references it in subsequent passages of the novel. The anecdote is just one example of the Eastern philosophical idea that “[w]e are not who we think we are” (xix). Initially Viveka does not recognize his true self/identity/destiny, but he comes to discover these truths through a yogic journey. This book takes you on that journey to discover your own truths by examining yogic philosophy.

I am so thoroughly enjoying Cope’s accounts of his journey of awakening that serve as a framework for the yogic philosophy discussion that I am rereading chapters over and over again. The book is truly thought-provoking, and I simply need the extra reads and time to process my responses to each passage.

This process of revisiting and approaching each section again has me considering how my yoga practice models that review and repetition. I feel something slightly different with each time I practice a specific asana – even if I embrace the same posture in quick secession.

In life, I often find myself moving quickly past a task once I’ve adequately “completed” it. I tend to skip right past any kind of celebration or review of the achievement. Even when I know that one of the most important aspects of a high quality learning experience is the reflection. Reading this book has been an excellent reminder that sometimes to authentically participate in something, I need to slow down. When I do take that time to reflect, the experience is rewarding in a whole and full, new way.

If you are looking to deepen the spiritual aspect of your practice or are simply interested in a concise, understandable explanation of the yogic worldview, definitely pick up Yoga and the Quest for True Self.


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