That’s the question one of the students the yoga teacher training program I’m assisting with asked last week. We were having a discussion about the five kleshas — or five causes of human suffering — the first one being misperception of reality (avidya). And of course the big existential question “what is reality” would came up.
Our realities are often shaped by our experiences and environment. But the yoga sutras tell us that these external factors distract and even blind us to the truth of who we are. The truth, according to yoga — and nearly every spiritual, metaphysical, and cosmological practice — is that we all carry a piece of the divine source (God/ess, Universe, Creator, whatever you call it) within us.
Yoga is a system for learning to be undistracted and undisturbed by the external factors, so we can see, understand and embody the true Self — the offspring of the divine source.
I grew up in church; I know a lot of people who did. But not everyone’s experience is being encouraged to study and discover that the power of God is within you. That is what I took from my years of Sunday School, Bible Study and endless other services. Not only did I grow up in church receiving the message that I was a child of God and that God’s power was in me, I read scripture after scripture that told me the same thing. And statistically, I shouldn’t have been able to accomplish the things I have: making a living as a freelance writer and yoga teacher.
I believe I’ve been able to accomplish because I internalized the message that the source is within me. That I don’t have to worry or seek externally for strength or answers. This doesn’t mean that I have always remembered. It is part of the human condition to identify with the ego, to chase pleasure and avoid pain… To cling to life. I am certainly guilty of all of it.
But what helps me stay grounded and focused, no matter how life shows up is the deep inner knowing that I am one with the divine source. That is the truth. That is reality. And when I do get distracted, the practice of yoga has been a huge part of my being able to come back to equinemity and oneness with myself.
So what is reality? (Mis)Perception shapes reality. The misperception of reality is what causes us pain and suffering.
Yoga is just an invitation to stop suffering.