As Yoga gets more and more mixed in with abstract new age psychobabble, I think it's important that we make a few distinctions between the two.

Let's discuss the small subject of the universe. The universe, according to the yogis, is happening from us. The consciousness that we are creates the universe in which we live. Our own personal universe, to a large extent, is a reflection of ourselves. This requires us to really accept responsibility for ourselves and for our lives. When we realize we are living in a reflection of our own mind, we can no longer play victim nor abdicate responsibility. And, on the flip side, we realize we are enormously powerful and can shift and change our perceptions to affect how we feel and live in our world.

In abstract new age thought, we perceive the universe at best as a pseudo-parental god figure or at worst as glorified ATM. We try to manipulate the universe rather than looking at ourselves. We deal with the external rather than the internal. True change does not come from endless affirmations, or pretending everything is hunky dory all the time, or by reading inspirational quotes on the mugs at the check out of Whole Foods. Those are all aspects of trying to control the uncontrollable. True change comes from having the courage to look at ourselves honestly and look at the results we are getting. If we don't like the results, and the same situations keep happening, then we need to have the bravery to change what we are doing. We have to put down the stubbornness of our egos and just do it differently. Change in our minds affects our choices, affects our behavior and gets different results. This is mature change that really lasts.

And in that process, we still get to see that there are things that are totally beyond our control and mysteries to the universe and to our lives that we may never solve. I hope we never solve all the mysteries. Life is beautiful in so many ways, but none so much as in the profound beauty of mystery. Part of mature recognition is also realizing that no matter how much we may "focus" our minds, we are all subject to the same natural forces. We will never know why bad things happen to good people, or why we die, or why disasters happen. Not trying to be Debbie Downer, just Tammy Truth. It's ok to accept these truths, to talk about them, to surrender to them, because it makes us realize just how profoundly precious each moment truly is. I mean, we are lucky to live privileged enough lives to even consider these ideas we don't need to always understand them. As much as our consciousness creates our world, we are still limited in our perspective of the workings of the universe in which we live, and that's ok. I think that's the way it should be. Some things we are simply not meant to understand.

Yoga is a path to understanding the nature of what we are and the nature of the universe in which we live. It's a profound system of helping us to stop the wheels of our own suffering. It goes far beyond the pedantic over-simplifications laid down by pop culture phenomena like "The Secret". Yoga can revamp your entire world and open possibilities you never dreamed of by holding you accountable to step up and fully live your life. It's in no way saying we should just hope for the best all the time and sprinkle fairy dust to bend the universe to our will. Yoga is telling you to take a good, hard look at yourself, and realize you are the key to your own freedom. You are creating yourself through your own consciousness. You are the painter, your life is your canvas, and your thoughts and actions are your paint. The entire masterpiece is yours to create.