When the image of a rose falls on the retina, it automatically makes an impression on the visual center in the brain. No choice is consciously made, because the nervous system has taken instant possession of the image. Until the attention wanders to another object, one’s awareness is imprinted with a rose. This is therefore a kind of union, or yoga, but a false one, because it is so weighted in favor of the object. Seeing the rose, I forget myself.
Most people have no idea that looking at things can be a kind of bondage. A rose is a rose, fire is fire, water is water–all these natural facts arrange themselves into a unity that seems preordained, thanks to the automatic process of identification. But to the yogi, the bondage of the senses is a serious handicap, because it commits us to things “out there” and to our memories, which are totally filled with things from the past.
If I break my leg and feel intense pain, my response seems unchallengeable when in fact it is merely a repetition of an old way of responding that I learned years ago. Can this old lesson be unlearned?
Anyone can distract himself from a mild headache by talking to a friend or becoming absorbed in a book. The reasons these distractions work is that we have more choice over identification than we realize. Even though the senses stick to the world like glue, we are still free to pull them away to new objects of fascination.
Adapted from Unconditional Life: Discovering the Power to Fulfill Your Dreams, by Deepak Chopra (A Bantam Book, 1991).