By Lissa (Yogeshwari) Fountain
When I’m “stuck in my stuff,” yoga props nowhere nearby, I have a burning question. How can I shift back inside to the awareness of my Divine Self? Well, there’s the obvious: more mantra repetition. And there are other shortcuts to Bliss as well. Swami Nirmalananda’s June Teachings: Serene & Luminous Experiences describe a quick fix: “Choose to remember one of the serene and luminous experiences you’ve had.”
To get unstuck, I recollect waves crashing against my childhood beach on Maine’s rocky coast. I recall the smell of the briny air. The sharp, crisp blue of water and cloudless sky fill my mind’s eye. Feeling awestruck by that sheer beauty stops my mind in an instant.
Yet Swamiji reminds us that “it’s about remembering the inner experience you had, not where, when or who you were with.” This distinction is pivotal. Recalling a nostalgic experience pulls at my heart strings; I can get lost in emotions. What felt serene and luminous at first gets obscured. Small-s self ruminations (the where, when and who I was with) cloud the inner experience. So how I work with my mind in choosing which way I want to go is the key.
Recently, a yoga therapy client, an elderly gentleman, shared how he works with his mind. In the predawn hours, he lies in bed fearful, his thoughts racing. So he pictures himself golfing on the greens of Scotland, in his prime, every swing and every putt. He is unstoppable. Fearless. At first, he saw this as just a distraction for his mind. Gradually he understood that he is experiencing the deeper part of himself. He calls it “calm.” This state is beyond his mind: blissful, serene and luminous. He’s using this quick fix spontaneously. He figured it out on his own.
You can do it, too. You find your own Divine Essence by using the memory of a mundane thing that is memorable because it triggered your experience of Self at the time. Then allow the feeling to tractor-beam you inward to Self. It’s amazing that we can use our recollections in such service to our own upliftment.
Yet there’s a challenge in it: I must decide to choose the highest, instead of the same old mental churnings. How often I find myself at that crossroads. I am entering a new stage in my life. While letting go of some old identities, I am uncomfortable with the uncertainties of the unknown. I confess, some days I can get a little down. Yet Swamiji says, “You can choose to pay attention to something else, even while the pain and or unhappiness is still there. You have the ability to choose what you’re focusing on.”
What freedom this promises — what Grace! This means I have the ability to choose, to be the master of my mind, and decide its course.
Remembering the Guru, a profound practice in itself, reliably triggers a transcendent experience for me. When I need a quick fix, I can recall waiting in the darshan line to greet Swamiji. I summon up how my body vibrated with Shakti down to my toes. It’s so visceral, beyond my mind. Or I can remember what it feels like to gaze into Infinity within her eyes. Whichever of these I recall, the form of the formless plants me into Self. This effect is faster than any memory of ocean, beach and sky. The practice for me, then, is watching what leads me away from Self. Then I pivot back to what I know will work to return me to my inner state. Moment to moment. With infinite gratitude, I do this by recalling the serene and luminous Being of my Guru, Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati, again and again.