Conducting an individual, yoga-based, first-person mini-project

Matthijs Cornelissen
last revision: 17 August 2023


When you study this text as part of a course on Indian, yoga-based, consciousness-centred, or integral psychology which stretches out over several months or years, and perhaps even when you just read this text privately for yourself, it is useful to take up a project which will help to keep your attention focussed while you study. Such a project helps to engage actively with the theory and practice of this new approach to psychology in the area that is most important to you. You formulate the concept, domain or process of psychology in which you're especially interested and then you focus your efforts in this area. It can, for example, be a theoretical issue, a psychological skill or quality you would like to develop, or a change you want to bring about in yourself.

In other words the project is meant to help you organize, assimilate and integrate your thoughts and personal experiences regarding the aspect of psychology that has your specific interest.

How the projects are used during the courses organised by IPI

During the IPI-based courses, there have generally been two projects. The first is a kind of trial, and will last at most one month. The second will normally continue for the rest of the course.

At the end of each project, two presentations are given, an oral one for the group, and a written one of which the participant can decide how public it will be.

The written project should consist basically of two parts:

  • A more theoretical part, which could be somewhat abstract and impersonal in style. This part should include a literature study as well as one's own considerations and reflections.
  • A more practical, personal part, in which self-observation will play a major role, and which will generally be focused on some attempt at inner change. This second part should include a personal account of what one experienced and discovered about the various concepts and processes involved by "going within" and by trying things out in oneself. To this end one can include selected passages from your journal, for example the struggles and victories that show how the study developed, how you tried to explore, understand and experience the various concepts and processes by focusing inside and going within.

An important aspect to consider in the discussion of one's findings is to what extent they might be generalizable and useful for others. In all stages of the project, it is good to be as concrete and detailed as possible!

As such, the written presentation should have the standard sections of a scientific paper:

  • Introduction focusing on what motivated you to take up this particular aspect/concept/process;
  • Theoretical explanation and elucidation of the involved issues, inclusive a short literature study;
  • Methodologies used;
  • Findings and developments;
  • Discussion;
  • Summary and conclusion.

Combining a project and a journal

While an individual project requires an active, focussed energy, it helps to maintain at the same time also a structured journal, which is essentially passive, and open-ended. One could look at maintaining a journal as an exercise in self-observation. It forces one to become more acutely, precisely and "objectively" aware of oneself and of all that all is happening inside, and in the process one develops the "inner instrumentation" needed for the precise and reliable self-observation that forms the core of this consciousness-centred approach to psychology. The journal once written, however interesting it may be as a trail of inner change, is from this perspective, a "side-benefit", while the honing of one's inner instrument of knowledge is the real issue.

The combination of writing a structured journal with a first-person project has been found very effective, both for inner change and for assimilating the basics of Integral, Indian psychology.

For both, for the project and for the journal, it is crucial to look at them in first instance as entirely private. The reason is that they work to the extent that you are as honest about yourself as you can possibly be. Only at a much later, and ideally clearly separate stage, should one consider what one wants to share with others, and how to do that. Here is where you can find out more about how to maintain a structured journal.