The journey through my bodies comes to an end! This exploration reinforced to me, yet again, the multidimensional potential of yoga practice. The yoga community in the West spends a great deal of time milling about in the physical realm of the annamaya kosha. In itself, of course, coming to know one’s physical self is a fruitful activity and can lead to many benefits. The unfortunate result of focussing only on one kosha is that yoga, then, can become simply another extension of a vanity obsessed, consumer culture.The over-valuation or over-emphasis of any one kosha leads to an unbalanced, sometimes extremist perspective on the practice. In contrast to the physical obsessions of the West we’ve also heard the stories.
All of existence comes alive in us. When you really contemplate it isn’t it true? It is the Awareness that we are which perceives the heat of the sun, the smell of freshly blossomed lilacs, the glorious flavor of Haagen Dazs ice cream on our palate. In awareness the inner world bursts forth as well. The perception of hunger, the heat of our passions, the heaviness of our grief. All of life, internal and external, become illuminated by the light of Awareness. In the asmitamaya kosha we come to know ourselves as this Awareness. We see that it’s not that awareness is in the person but that the person is experienced in Awareness. .
In my last post I explored the sheath of Joy. At this level of awareness seeking ceases. We come to realize that the Joy that we spend so much energy on trying to attain is closer to us than any possession or achievement could ever be. Thank god this Bliss of living is not an attainment, it cannot be bought or sold, given or taken away. It is part of the fabric of what we are, although often forgotten. As we become still the body of Joy is revealed; remembered. The Joy that we long for is present and contentment arises. If only for a moment. In the lucidity of this contentment there is spaciousness, the mind.
At this level of my being I tap into the stories, concepts, images and thoughts that whir about within me. As I self-reflect I notice some anxiety (at the level of the manomaya kosha) about finishing this post knowing that I have little time in the next few days to do so. At a subtler level there is a belief that drives the anxiety. The belief is that if I don’t get it finished and readers are expecting a post that I will have failed in some way. As I try to stay with this belief it gets bumped out by random images of the potato soup I am cooking upstairs and a curiousity about.
I’ve been actively avoiding this post all week. I have often guarded my feelings and emotions and so publicly writing about it fills me with fear. I’m afraid to be honest, I’m afraid that I won’t be honest. So I start there. In the fear. I move through the first two sheaths with ease, I am comfortable here, in sensation and energy. And then I bump up against a wall of butterflies- this is often how I feel fear or anxiety – as mass of butterflies that jitter in my torso. And the butterflies go nowhere. They just flit about in chaotic non-patterns, bunging up any sense of flow within me.I bring more awareness to this moving, immovable mass. As I do this the butterflies seem.
As I sit in front of the large windows in my living room I notice a lady bug crawling along the windowsill. It is only one small part of the larger scene of life pulsating through this moment. My cat snores beneath my chair. A light breeze ruffles the delicate leaves of freshly planted petunias on my porch. The heavy, grumbling sounds of passing cars periodically mask the fervent chirps of neighborhood robins. The world is vital this morning. It is not a blob of inanimate substance, it is alive. I am alive. My awareness turns inward and I notice that my body feels fatigued from hours of excited gardening. My legs ache.
In yoga we are seen as being made up of various sheaths through which passing phenomena arise and dissolve. These sheaths or bodies are called koshas in Sanskrit. In the non-dual tradition there are 6 koshas and one changless Ground of Being which is both distinct but not separate from the 6 koshas. In the next few blogs I will be exploring these sheaths through my own experience and sharing what I find with all of you. Richard Miller, a modern teacher of non-dualism, has delineated the koshas in the following way in his book Yoga Nidra:1. Physical body (Annamaya kosha) – Awareness of sensation 2. Energy body (Pranamaya kosha).
My daughter, Rowan, is a crucible through which the depth of my yoga practice has been tested. She was only home a month when I was besieged by post partum depression, colic and sleeplessness. One desperate day I settled, with feeble energy, into downward dog. I breathed there, listlessly, and felt my exhaustion. I breathed and felt the sensations of pain, fatigue and self doubt live their way through my body. I breathed until I became completely and honestly present to the deep ache of motherhood – the ache of immense fear, anger, fatigue, confusion – and love.As I descended deeper into experience my awareness held this ache like.
The following post is an article that I wrote for the Spring issue of the Yoga Bridge, the Yoga Association of Alberta’sNewsletter. Perfection and Yoga: a ReflectionBy Pam Moskie Georg Feuerstein comments that yoga is a “vast body of doctrines and practices geared toward self-realization by means of perfecting the body.” As a recovering perfectionist, his use of the word perfecting got me thinking. Is self-realization a product of perfection? And if so, what does it mean to perfect the body? Whose standard of perfection is to be used? My Random House dictionary defines perfect as “having all the desired qualities or having no flaws or defects.” Yet, what is.
We have an assumption in our society that tortures us. It is that we are broken and must be fixed, that we are fallen and must be saved – then we’ll be ok, valuable and happy. A self help empire has been built on the belief that we are not ok as we are. Religious institutions have gotten rich because of this belief. It pervades the microcosms within our society and the yoga subculture is no exception. Subtle though it may be I have often felt threads of this way of thinking in many of the classes I’ve attended. And, I’ve heard myself speak variations of it in my own.