For me, yoga is a journey of self discovery. Through the practice of yoga and meditation we can come to know our True-Selves and the infinite love, spirit and wisdom that makes up our True Nature. Yoga and meditation are an opportunity for us to connect with ourselves through our physical sensations, thoughts, emotions, spirit and life experience. When we retreat into yoga we can explore such questions as: What kind of relationship do I have with myself? What kind of relationship do I want to have with myself? Through the practice of yoga, meditation, retreat and silence we can discover what it is like to stay with our ups and downs, to stay with ourselves when nobody else is around, to stay by our own sides, knowing everything will be all right. During our next weekend retreat we will practice embracing all that we discover in an intimate relationship with ourselves.
Not surprisingly, when I describe this process of self-discover through yoga, meditation, silence and retreat some people panic. Many people have expressed to me a concern at being alone with their thoughts. There is a huge amount of fear around just what they might discover. It’s as if when we look within we will only discover all the atrocities of our own pandora’s box. Debbie Ford explains, “We believe that if we look closely enough at what lies deep within us, we will find something horrible. We resist looking long and hard for fear of discovering someone we can’t life with. We fear ourselves.”
The truth is, there is nothing to fear. Debbie Ford goes on to explain the gift in self-discovery:
Our shadows exist to teach us, guide us, and give us the blessing of our entire selves. They are resources for us to expose and explore. The feelings that we have suppressed are desperate to be integrated into ourselves. They are only harmful when they are repressed: then they can pop up at the least opportune times. Their sneak attacks will handicap you in the areas of your life that mean the most.
Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you’re not. You will no longer have to prove you are good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to live in fear. Find the gifts of your shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. (Ford 1998, pg 2-3).
Yoga philosophy has much to say about the True Self. Within the spiritual texts of yoga it is called the Atman. Book one verse 2-3 of the yoga sutras states that, “Yoga frees you from the drama, tragedy, the saga your mind creates and allows you to experience your True Self.”
So just what is this True Self, this Atman that all the yogic spiritual texts speak of? Seems it is difficult to explain. Sally Kempton says “the Self has three basic qualities: It is sat, or ever existent and permanently real. It is chit, or aware of itself and everything else. And it is ananda, or joyful. Here are some words used to describe our True Nature from the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita:
- pure light
- inner light
- true self within
- never changing
- pure consciousness
- indwelling reality
- union with spirit
So then the question might become, just how do we come to know this Inner Self? St. Francis of Assisi reminds us that the one you are looking for is the one who is looking. In other words, we already are this True Self.
Often, when we first get quiet with our thoughts in meditation, yoga or silence we become aware of just how busy our mind really is. This is often equated to rough waters, whose sediment is churned up creating murky water and a false sense of an undesireable self. Over time, as the mind settles, the mud settles and the water becomes clear. The distracting thoughts give way to clarity, peace, calm, and serenity.
We all have the capacity to touch our inner self through the awareness created by our practice of yoga and meditation. And that is exactly what we will be doing on our next yoga retreat. So take a deep breath in and let it fall out of your mouth, there is nothing to fear, through the practice of yoga, meditation and silence we will come to know the brilliance of our True Nature.
Sat Nam, Melissa