There is something timelessly beautiful about a clean, elegant, functional, simplistic and sensitive design. This is also how it is when we inhabit our bodies, poised, in a comfortable arrangement of muscle and bone, a display of posture and movement, with the inner focus of the Zen art of flower arrangement. A Zen flower arrangement has what some may call coherence; it exhibits harmony. And it expresses an inner radiance, an inner process, and physical skill that the Zen flower arranger learns through a mental, physical and spiritual discipline.
Now I’ll attempt to straighten out the point of this post. Yoga is, in fact, all about an inner focus. Where a certain amount of confusion comes in, for me anyway, is that the process of getting to this inner focus is called self-realisation. One can’t help wonder what that means, which as good a thing it is, also seems a bit obtuse. It is of course the point of yoga, to philosophically encourage its practitioners to discover “who is realising what”, or, to ask oneself, “who and what am I?” And “Who is self?”. That “why”, the why we live, why get disease, find happiness, find or loose money, make a home, retreat into a cave, etc, etc, is, when we live consciously, is the meaning. To realise the self is about that kind of consciousness.
How does a sense of self and consciousness relate to the body, and to the practice of yoga?
Essentially the physical body is energised by the greater life force = the food we eat, the planet, the air we breathe. It is an expression of the life force, or prana, the essential building block
ingredient we are created from, the energy that animates us. When the body is tight, tense, or diseased, it is uncomfortable, undesirable, and not a good place to be in. Then we don’t incarnate fully, we try to avoid being in it. We space out in response, or seize up in tightness, we look for distraction, follow intellectual pursuits, loose ourselves in entertainment, mindless or not, and emotions rage from fear to hope, we find belief in a system that fits our preconceptions or we find nihilistic rejection of religion, we do anything but deal with feeling trapped in the body. Then we may take medicine to maintain our life, because we need to be in the body to live and the body does not function as we may expect it under the circumstances. All this while we cynically deride spirituality, or even happiness, or rejoice in some kind of external savaiour. This is an unhealthy relationship with self, not wholesome at all.
The yogic way to optimal health is to loosens up and energise the bodymind with conscious connection to the cosmic life force, prana. This is the reason why yoga is a system based on stretches, relaxation, movement, breathing and meditation.
The yoga path of self-realization is based on a principle of inward evolution, with the aim to experience the purity of the inner being, an eternal center of consciousness. This is not a moralistic rulebook of righteousness but an inner compass of well-being. To get the perspective right consider that yoga mentions five levels or layers of being, named koshas in Sanskrit, which literally means “sheaths”. The yogic plan of action is to literally loosen up the body and establish a conscious connection with the life force that inhabits it, and feel it in our inner being, with our inner awareness, as an expression of, or version of “all that is”. So part of the experience is to connect to the outer divinity of the cosmos while feeling the inner true self – two versions of the same life force. This is one way of understanding self-relaisation. Realising the self is then a journey “home” so to speak, or, individuation, which happens when we acknowledge this process, engage in it and seek the way back to our own conscious centre, which is really simply a journey back to wholeness.
One does not have to obsess about being healthy, fit, strong or competitive. As humans we tend to manually override the body with technology or self will. Health is a state of wholeness – which is why we have holy men, or women. Holistic health. Incidentally, balancing the masculine and feminine is an aspect of healing – the left and the right. That is why medicine, in the sense of mechanical medical engineering, can play a role in healing, but it can never be healing on its own, as it is not whole, and does not have the whole in mind.
We do yoga poses to begin the process of the inner journey, to create change from within, connecting to our, and a greater cosmic whole. This becomes more clear when we investigate the surrounding energetic sheaths, or koshers – read more here.
17 Otober 2014