I think therefore I am?
Descartes famously declared; “I think therefore I am", giving rise to the joke that when asked in a café if he would like more coffee, he replied “I don’t think so” and promptly disappeared.
In yoga, we aim to still the mind’s fluctuations (citta vritti nirodah) in order to arrive at a state of calm. It is accepted that we are tormented by our mind’s restlessness; constant regretful or vengeful rumination over the past, bearing grudges, wishing we had done otherwise, railing against our fate, or anxiety around the future, our health, our pensions, our student loans, perhaps also our physical death.
When we identify with this body-mind complex, we are limited, fearful and mortal. Yoga teaches us that we are not the body, but also not the mind. Vedanta shows us how to use the mind to control the mind; how the remedy for a restless mind is a disciplined mind. Not mindlessness but mindfulness. An awareness of our fullness and the wholeness of being. The “I am” rather than the thought of it. When we are able to step back from our thinking mind and see ourselves as the observer of our thoughts, the master of our mind, we identify not with the little egoic self but with the vast “I am” of universal existence.
Mano buddhyahamkārā cittāni nāham sings Adi Śankara in the much-loved Nirvāņa Şaţkam. I am not the mind, intellect, ego or memory. I am the witness. I am. Whether I think so or not.