Competence and Consciousness

Noel Burch developed a model called the four stages of consciousness

This model is used to explain how we learn a new skill.  According to the model we learn new skills and pass through these stages.  (Note:  We can use the term skill or competence below)

Stage 1  Unconsciouness incompetence – we don’t know that we don’t have a skill or even that we need to learn it.

Stage 2   Conscious incompetence – we are aware that we don’t have a skill and are bad at it.
Stage 3  Conscious competence – we know that we have a skill
Stage 4  Unconscious competence – we have a skill and we can do it without thinking.


You might be able to relate to  this model by how you started developing your yoga or meditation practice.  We all start by not even knowing that we need to do yoga or meditation.  We may then realize that we should do it but cannot.  Perhaps we go to a yoga studio and  started our journey feeling pretty badly about our abilities!  We kept at it and then, at least for a few  poses or perhaps a few moments, seem to magically be able to ‘get’ a yoga pose, flow, or still the mind.

But, is there something beyond this? Is there something beyond just developing the ability to do yoga in your sleep?   If you are going through the motions, yes you are doing the poses, or sitting on the meditation cushion and  yes,  you are meditating  but you may not be doing it mindfully.  We need to bring a focus and attention to our practice and what we are doing even if the physical body becomes very good at it.

In our meditation we start just by sitting, then, over time, as we become more comfortable, the mind stills, we bring a focus –  perhaps to the breath.  We learn to stay with the breath and watch with single pointedness.  Perhaps, for just a moment, perhaps for many moments.  We stay alert, not drifting, dozing, or following one thought to another until the bell rings and our time is up.

So the next time you are on your yoga mat and find yourself going from one pose to another, see if you can focus your attention on the action.  Bring mindfulness into your practice – then bring it to the rest of your life and whatever you are doing.

In every pose, repose



Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar(14 December 1918 – 20 August 2014), was one of the best yoga teachers we have seen in this world.  He opened up the world of yoga to many and his influence is felt strongly across the yoga community.  I have recently been rereading Light on Life  and, thought I would share with you some of Mr. Iyengar’s advice – obtained over many years from an active practice and teaching.

Balance activity with passivity

Some poses seem to be more energetic than others.  Resting in chair pose seems to be a contradiction – but can we become more passive and settled even in our most active poses?   Is there somewhere in your body that you can relax into even in your more strenuous poses?  Are you efforting too hard in an attempt to power into a pose?  Perhaps you are missing some of the juicy lessons by going so hard.  It may serve you better to approach in a more softer manner.  Bring inquiry to each and every pose you do.  Allow your mind to focus not so much on the efforting but more on the relaxing feelings in other parts of the body when you do the pose.  You may surprise yourself and find relaxation even when you are really struggling.

Pacing your yoga practice

Some of us are Type A – always going at max speed.  We are on all the time.  I like this poster below.  But does this advice best serve us in every activity?  Where can we slow down and enjoy when we do our yoga practice?




Bring balance to your whole yoga practice

Bring some balance to your practice by mixing up active poses with the passive ones.  Don’t think of the passive poses as just giving you a time to rest and relaxation- really explore what they are teaching.  Bring a sense of focus to your body no matter what you are doing.

Extending to relax

Bridge the gap between bringing effort in a pose and brining a feeling of surrender into the pose.  To stretch little deeper, go to the place where you feel a good stretch, not to the point of pain, and stay in the pose.  It may take some effort to allow you to stay this way. Take a deep breath in, exhale outwards, relax, and try stretching just a little deeper.





Living with our thoughts

thought by thought


It’s amazing what our minds can conjure up.  Our thoughts flit and wander from one to another, thinking back to a tender moment, then perhaps drawing out feelings of revenge, rage or anger, bounding to things real, imagined or events that happened or not.  Waking from a dream, feelings can arise leaving you in a state of panic thinking something happened to you that didn’t – it was just part of your dream thoughts.  The body reacts, and stress is induced.


I like this quote.  “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened. ‘ It is usually attributed to Mark Twain but this isn’t the case. No one really knows who actually said it.  After all, it sounds like something Mark Twain would say.   This attribution to Mark Twain is made up, not real, part of our group collective consciousness.  Part of our attempt to attach meanings to everything in the world.


In our day to day, we seem drawn to grab onto thoughts and let them take us wherever they may go.  The mind wanders again and again.  When the power of the present thought recedes, we take flight on another, then another.  The mind seems never to be still.  We worry when the mind goes off this way, sometimes willing our mind to return to the old thought and patterns of thinking.


This is where a meditation practice can help by embracing this property of jumping from thought to thought.  For this practice, we practice going for the ride, not trying to exert control.  By allowing our minds to go where they may, watching the thoughts in our minds come and recede, and practicing letting go of trying to hold onto them and attach meanings, we practice non-attachment.

It can help us reclaim a sense of calm when we realize we don’t have to control each and every thought that arises.  We don’t have to attach any importance to one thought over another.  Whenever a thought takes us on a flight of fancy, we just notice what the thought has become, notice that our mind has moved on, and focus on the new thought.  When we need to recenter ourselves, we return our attention to our breath, living in the experience of just breathing one breath at a time.  No judgment, no interpretation on what the last thought meant, even if it is from a dream, just let the mind be.


The next time you approach your meditation practice, try meditating in this way.  Stay open to whatever comes up.  Just notice.  Don’t label. You can focus your attention to the feelings that come up when you have a particular thought.  Don’t try to analyze, just observe, and when your mine wanders off, let it wander.  No control. Let go of the old thought and turn your attention to the new one.  You don’t have to feel bad that your mind has wandered, just let your awareness go to the next thought.  Breathe in. Breathe out.  Moment by moment let your mind focus on whatever comes up.






Meditation Challenge


This month, I’m participating in Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness Meditation Challenge with a commitment to sit in meditation every day in February.  Last year over 23,000 joined following the program outlined in Real Happiness.  Each week, different meditation practices will be offered.  The commitment is small.  Each day takes less than ten minutes of time.  The first week will focus on a concentration practice.

I’m looking forward to the next few weeks and sharing my experiences. If you’ll be doing this challenge, let me know!

Registration is still open if you want to join us.  Have you ever done a meditation challenge before? If you have, I’d love to hear about it!  If you join,  I’d love to hear about that too!

Here is the link    Commit to Sit