What is enlightenment anyway?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been thinking about this for some time wondering what on earth ‘it’ is all about.  Not life that is….I think I have figured that out to a degree, but now I am focused on the concept of ‘enlightenment’.  A term which is bandied about as much as ‘journey’, ‘consciousness’ and ‘self-discovery’. Yoga is now being used to advertise yoghurt and ‘gurus’ are being sought like personal trainers.  With depth being devoured and authenticity plummeting, do we actually reflect upon the true aspiration of yoga? Enlightenment.

Is enlightenment living on some remote rock face in India infused with so much ganja that you don’t know whether you are coming, going or in fact being here now? Travelling through India as I do, I am often dubious about the ‘enlightened’ beings I encounter.

I guess enlightenment is synonymous with the Dalai Lama; his constant laughter and luminous smile!  He can’t be that happy all the time.  Or can he?  I doubt whether he is smoking anything!  He just ‘is’!

Actually, he is my pin-up boy!  I have a picture of him in this very room, hoping that I shall ‘catch’ everything he exudes – warmth, compassion and selflessness as a start.  His total love of the human race – and that infamous giggle!   Now that would be good.

Some years ago I was in Kerala, India.  I was on my way to visit a friend and in order to get to his home I had to traverse a narrow pathway in the middle of a paddy field.  It was sultry and warm, with a velvety black sky.  I was serenaded by the night choir of insects; the sounds of summer that nestle in the hot humid air; and the distant chants emitting from the temple priests that were echoing through the village….so mystical, charming and ethereal.

It ‘occurred for a split second (or so it seemed). Everything merged as though I was cocooned into an instant.  I was in a timeless place. No past.  No future.  The ‘now’.  The knowing of ‘now’.  The joy of that one enchanted, albeit fleeting, moment.  All had merged and I KNEW that I was exactly where I was meant to be and I was experiencing a glimpse, just a glimpse, of what it must be like to be totally present.  And I mean….totally!  I didn’t think ‘it’.  I felt ‘it’.  I didn’t analyse ‘it’.  I knew ‘it’.  Oh for the joy of that instant to be relived again and again.

I get ‘it’ intellectually.  Not being controlled by the ego.  Not being burdened by the past.  Not fearing the future.  Not being caught up in my thoughts.  Not reaching, seeking or striving.  Just being right here now.

I did get a true glimpse!  And that is enough for me to keep expanding.  Not being limited by this physical world but expanding beyond the realms of my own self.  In other words – getting out of my own way!

It’ happens now and again and it is divine.

Letting go of preconceived ideas, habits, beliefs and behaviours that contract rather than expand my persona is part of the deal.  Easier said than done of course!

I asked a friend last evening what she considered ‘enlightenment’ to be.  She simply stated “waking up to your truth”.

A question you may ask is that when the great masters become ‘enlightened’ what changes?  Are they still human?  Do they still have foibles and make mistakes and behave like us?  I asked this of one of my fellow yoga teachers one day.

His response:

“Before enlightenment: chop wood carry water… After enlightenment: chop wood carry water.

So enlightenment doesn’t change the day-to-day expectations and demands (but obviously quality of life changes to the max…)”.

And what does Deepak say?

“You resurrect your soul.  Your soul gives you a life of joy, effortless spontaneity, love, compassion, kindness, peace, equanimity, joy at the success of others…..unlimited imagination and creativity. To be enlightened means to be ‘in the light’ – literally.  To be free!”

One can only hope.

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Anapanasati – Now is the Knowing!

I adore this meditation.  It is so simple, rhythmic and serene.

Translated as a-napana “breathing in and out” and sati “to watch or to observe’, one can deeply relax whilst silently focusing upon the breath.  Our breath is the connection from our outer world to our inner world, guiding us internally away from all external distractions and disturbances.

And so, we gaze upon the breath from within, breathing slowly and smoothly.

Sit in a quiet, tranquil place.  There is no point being uncomfortable.  If being crossed-legged is too challenging, a chair is a great alternative.

Being relaxed and comfortable is the key.  Sitting up straight is important.  Slouching and stooping interfere with the natural flow of energy.  In fact, being curled over can exacerbate anxiety and not diffuse it. Forcing yourself to sit up is not an option either as this may cause tension in the body and defeat the purpose of relaxing into the moment.

Some prefer to meditate early in the morning when the mind is fresh and ready to greet the day. Others prefer to meditate at dusk in order to ‘let go’ of the experiences of the day.  Some like to meditate twice daily.  Do what you have time to do.  But, do make time!

The following is a rendition of ‘Anapanasati’ which I have modified for my yoga students.  You may wish to use these words or download Deepak’s Chopra’s 8-minute meditation which is available on iTunes.

Often I start the day with Deepak’s deeply soothing voice or just recite these words when I have a moment or two.  Whether you modify and learn the words yourself or listen to Deepak Chopra, enjoy!   Over time you will become so much more relaxed, clearer and happier.

Let’s begin –

  • Take in a deep, full, breath, from deep down in the belly 1, 2, 3, 4 hold for a second
  • Release the breath calmly and slowly, 1, 2, 3, 4,
  • Again Breathe in 1,2 3, 4, hold for a few moments and breath out 1,2,3,4.
  • Do this a few more times

And now say these words to yourself as you breathe in and out calmly and peacefully:

  • I know I am breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath
  • I know I am breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath
  • I am aware of my body, I am aware of my body
  • I soothe my body, I soothe my body
  • My heart swells with joy, my heart swells with joy
  • I feel happy, I feel happy
  • I am aware of my thoughts, I am aware of my thoughts
  • I release my thoughts, I release my thoughts
  • I focus my mind, I focus my mind
  • I liberate my mind, I liberate my mind
  • I observe the impermanence of all things, I observe the impermanence of all things
  • I release all yearning, I release all yearningI am still, I am still
  • I am letting go, I am letting go

‘Now is the Knowing’.