True knowledge is felt and impacts action. Facts alone are not the same. Sometimes a statement strikes us immediately as truth and we are changed. More often we turn facts to knowledge through repetition. Then facts, like road maps burn into our very being and become a part of us.
When I was first practicing Ashtanga Yoga in New York my teacher used to always say “listen to your breathing”. Multiple times during the class she would repeat, “listen to your breath” or “hear your breath”. Over and over I would hear her say those words and was confident I was doing as she instructed. Sometimes I wondered why she kept giving the same instruction again and again. Then one day while practicing I suddenly felt the meaning of those words. They became so clear and my understanding of what she meant deepened to knowing. I had a revalation about what it meant to listen and suddenly it felt like whatever I had been doing before was a poor imitation of listening, a not even close second.
There is a vast tradition of repetition in Indian culture, especially around learning. Chants and mantras are experienced as if on a continuous loop. This method is extremely affective for learning and for drowning out the daily chatter of the mind. Words repeated are felt on a vibration level. Just as we have a feeling when we experience music, we feel words when their vibrations touch us. We are physically changed by sounds.
Ashtanga Yoga is a practice that thoroughly embraces repetition. We practice the same poses in the same order daily. We follow the same core instructions: listen to your breathing. focus your eyes on one spot, feel your body as a shape in space. Day by day we feel we are having an experience of an asana. But overtime, we experience deeper layers of the poses and once in awhile perhaps a feeling of understanding, of knowing their essence.
I’ve always felt yoga to be a method of self tuning. As we experience these truth epiphanies on the mat we become more skilled at feeling the difference between truth and imitation in all settings and more attracted toward living in the feeling of truth. Thoughts, words and actions begin naturally to align. When this occurs we are without conflict and there is a great feeling of freedom and calm. We are living satya.
Satya, truthfulness, is the second Yama and one of the most important concepts in attaining yoga. It means to actually be truth. Patanjali says that when we are one with truth it is expressed through us and all we express becomes true. Truth is not concept but a way of being and a method of action.