Missed the beginning of this series? Catch up here:
- Committing to a Forty Day Sadhana of Sodarshan Chakra Kriya
- Day 1 to 7: Forty Day Sadhana of Sodarshan Chakra Kriya
There have been so many “ah-ha!” moments this week, brought about by a combination of this sadhana, but also an amazing book I am reading called Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, by Stephen Cope.
Regular practice of yoga transforms us form the inside out – psyche and all. It’s a process I’ve largely done by myself, with no-one to ask about my experiences, no one to shine a light on my path, no one to explain what it is I’m encountering. At times I’ve felt total despair because all I could see was the un-doing, the falling apart, the breaking down.
I was afraid that these feelings, these experiences were just “how life was” for me, for now and forever. Stephen Cope’s book has, for the first time, shown me that other people do experience the transformative power of yoga as a disruptive, upsetting force. It combines Western psychology (Stephen is a psychotherapist) with the spiritual practice and process of yoga (he’s also a yoga teacher).
With the help of the light Stephen is shining, and the equanimity my sadhana has brought into my day-to-day life, I feel like I’ve broken through in my understanding of the process of yoga. I feel more grounded, less needy, more certain. Mostly, I feel a combination of less fear, and more courage to confront the fear I do continue to feel.
And all this from a breathing exercise that requires one to pump the stomach while holding in the breath and silently repeating a mantra! How on earth???
Yet when I do this kriya, eleven minutes a day, there are discernable physical and subtle effects. This week in particular, I was aware of a delicious yet poignant sensation of release in my upper chest, moving toward my throat area. Kinda like the total opposite of swallowing a lump in the throat. Every time it happened, I felt lighter, happier, softer, sweeter.
I am able to see, quite clearly, how as a child and as a teenager I constructed a sense of self that made me feel safe. A self that was strong, rational, untouchable, removed – the Ice Queen. I see how the construction of this false self was not just an ego idea within my mind, but how this idea of who I wanted to be in order to feel safe also permeated through my posture and became how I held myself. I see how the process of yoga, which breaks down the way we hold ourselves in order to protect ourselves, has meant that I’ve had to acknowledge all of the things I didn’t think I felt because I was strong, rational, untouchable and removed.
Yoga leads to this type of destruction – of the false self. The identity we create in order to feel safe and get what we think we want in life. This destruction is painful. Yet if one wants to live an authentic, free, enjoyable life, it is also necessary. It’s meant first seeing myself truthfully, both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, and then accepting all of that. This acceptance of the duality of life is a key tenet in yoga, and in life. It is when we step into and acknowledge the truth of what is, accepting it right here and right now, allowing ourselves to experience reality.
Not as we wish it was, not how we want it to be… but how it IS.
Committing to a yoga practice means committing to seeing truth. We commit to being the witness – of ourselves and of the world around us. We want to see “how I really am” – with no desire to fix, or change, or condem. Just accept.
And right now, I’m really tense. I’m home alone after teaching a yoga class, and in the twenty minutes of so that I’ve been sitting at my computer, this enormous tension has crept into my shoulders and my neck. I just noticed I was ignoring this tension and it was growing worse, and worse. So now I reconnect to my breathing and sit with the tension. Not questioning it, not judging it, simply being with it and listening, breathing.
As I do that, my whole posture changes. First I slump down in my chair, head hanging, and then I lean back, relaxing… noting that it feels good yet unfamiliar. I don’t relax very often! Ok, music. Bit of U2. Whoa… I feel like I’m shedding a persona I had donned in order to write this post.
OK. Take Two.
Week Two. Sadhana.
You know what I’ve noticed as a result of this week? I’ve noticed that my love of all things yogic and spiritual is an addiction and an escpaism in and of it’s self. It’s yet another layer of constructed false self designed to keep me safe and get me what I want.
Notice I said “get” me what I want. I’ve noticed this week that for all my fancy spiritual ideals… I’m a getter not a giver. And that’s OK. I’ve noticed a lot of despicable behaviour actually, both past and present. And that’s ok too. I’ve noticed how my subconscious awareness of this behaviour has made me afraid of the type of things happening to me that I’ve done to other people. I’ve noticed how this fear creates suffering in my life now. Man we’re complicated beings! No wonder life can be so damn miserable, especially when you begin to work on bringing all unconsious stuff into the consciousness.
So how do I reconcile all these rotten things I’e done in my lifetime with the idealised view I have of who I am?
The only way forward is acceptance, in every moment. Because no matter how much I want to be this paragon of loving, compassionate, kindness it’s guaranteed that I will do more rotten things. Maybe not as many, maybe not as rotten. I’m not perfect, and I gotta stop expecting myself to be perfect.
I don’t gotta be perfect in order to be loved.
Full disclosure. I’m crying now. U2 is playing One Love. And I’m witnessing these tears. This grief, this relief, and a part of me is dancing. In fact, the rest of my wants to dance too… as U2 asks me if I’ve come here for forgiveness… to raise the dead… to play Jesus… We’re One, but we’re not the same… we hurt each other and we’ll do it again.
This is the process, as I experience it. Bringing more and more of reality into my awareness means I have to confront how I really am in each moment, and then accept that, creating space for soething new to arise. It is at times uncomfortable, painful, bewildering. But through yoga I build the internal witness, I build my ability to stay grounded and stay within my experience, just allowing the thoughts and emotions to come through, to release, stripping away layers of the false self and coming to a place of greater and greater authenticity.
Returning always to now. The music, the wind rattling the windows, the trees dancing, the sun shining, knowing that everything is ok. I’m ok.
Read the next post in this series: