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Life has a way of eroding our sense of self. Instead of feeling connected and confident, we find ourselves moving through life fueled by fear, feeling like we lack something that others have, angry all the time, unsure of what lies ahead, and looking for external supports to guide us.
But within all of us is a deep, inner knowing that is unbothered by external circumstances and untouched by the stories we tell ourselves.
“The soul is covered by a thousand veils” ~ Hazrat Inayat Khan
Finding the bliss body
In my yoga tradition, this unblemished center of our being is referred to as the Anandamaya Kosha, or the bliss body. This inner core is said to be surrounded by our physical body (annamaya kosha), life force (pranamaya kosha), mind (manomaya kosha), and consciousness (vijnanamaya kosha).
We are born with innate joy that bubbles up from the wellspring at our center — you can see it in the smiles of young children. But as we grow up and learn how to survive in this tumultuous world, we often lose that connection to the source of true happiness. We develop a hard shell, a shield that steals us against a world that can do us great harm us. Our Self becomes a casualty of our own defense system.
The spiritual journey is the process of returning to this source, by peeling back the layers that disguise our true nature. This origin point within us imbues us with calm and a clarity about the nature of the world and our place within it.
When we taproot this inner wisdom and live with awareness, our struggles become contextualized within a wide, open spaciousness so they don’t feel so insurmountable.
When we shed our fear, jealousy, and uncertainty, we find that we already have everything we need.
When we stop blaming the world for our problems, opportunities seem to present themselves. This is because they’re already there, we just can’t see them through the fog of our disconnection.
Nurturing inner wisdom
To find our way home to our center, we can employ what the ancient wisdom traditions refer to as upaya, or skillful means: methods that reveal the path to the source and techniques for traveling on it. Skillful means include longevity practices that improve our health such as yoga, eating nourishing food, and sleeping well. We also learn ways of living with more grace and how to use our natural intelligence for positive change. Upaya is the heart of an enriching spiritual practice.
A simple practice for connecting to your Self
To get you started on the path to reconnecting with your true nature, try this simple mindfulness practice. It only takes about six minutes, and I recommend you start by practicing first thing in the morning before you check your email or read the news.
Once you are familiar with the technique, then try this meditation at any point in your day when you might need a bit of presence. I find this practice very helpful before I go into a meeting or as a bridge between my work day and family time in the evenings.
I call this little exercise the “check-in meditation” because that’s precisely what you do. Think of this as asking yourself, “how are you?” and then try to be patient as the answer slow arises. Try to go into this exercise without any expectation about what you are going to discover. This is about taking a snapshot of how you truly are right now.
Whether you are lying down, sitting or even standing up, take the time to get comfortable and ensure that you are have a few, undistracted minutes to yourself.
Spend the first three minutes paying attention to your body. Start by noticing the neutral sensations: the surface you’re on and how the position of your legs and arms feel. Then widen the view to include the obvious things: stiffness, aches, etc. Be aware of the presence of pain, but also notice the areas of the body that are pain free. And then ask yourself, “what else is here?”
For the next three minutes, shift your attention to your mood. Think of this as checking your inner weather report. Try to notice your feelings without labeling them or explaining them. Just feel them. You can always analyze them later.
Finally, spend the last three minutes (or so) noticing your state of mind. Are your thoughts racing or poking along? Are they fixated on one topic or jumping around from thought to thought? Usually our mind operates on a continuum between these end points, and it can change quickly. Just take it all in with a measure of patience. Your mind is not the enemy.
The check-in meditation is a useful tool for getting to know and understand our behaviors in daily life. You’ll start to see patterns in how your mood affects your reactions to things, or how your behavior is affected by such things as how much sleep you’ve had recently. Knowing yourself gives you the power to better attend to your needs and self-regulate. Over time, even a simple practice like this can help peel back the many veils that obscure that blissful inner core.
Join me and my colleague Stacy Seebart for our Return to Source Yoga Retreat from May 10-16, 2019, where we will share time-tested yoga methods and contemporary approaches to self-inquiry to help you connect to the spark of your own inner wisdom. You can expect nourishing Self-Awakening, Yin, and Restorative Yoga practices, guided meditations, reflective exercises and lots of opportunities to partake in the amenities at the center including kirtan and quiet walks in nature.
Jennifer O’Sullivan has been teaching yoga for nearly 15 years. She is most influenced by Don & Amba Stapleton of the Nosara Yoga Institute and senior Yin Yoga teacher Sarah Powers. Jennifer is an endorsed Insight Yoga teacher and mentor in the Insight Yoga Institute, which combines Buddhism, Taoism, and Spiritual Psychology. She supports practitioners and teachers through innovating workshops, online courses, and Yin Yoga teacher training.
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Jennifer O’Sullivan has been teaching yoga for nearly 15 years. She is most influenced by Don & Amba Stapleton of the Nosara Yoga Institute and senior Yin Yoga teacher Sarah Powers. Jennifer is an endorsed Insight Yoga teacher and mentor in the Insight Yoga Institute which combines Buddhism, Taoism, and Spiritual Psychology. She supports practitioners and teachers through innovative workshops, online courses, and Yin Yoga teacher training. https://sati.yoga/about/index.html