By Gurudevi Nirmalananda
Staying home in these times is a way of protecting your body. The face masks, other protective gear and hand-washing is to protect your body as well as others’, so they’re not exposed to the virus. These rituals are becoming more normal, which is good because they’re going to continue for quite a while. Yet this quiet time has proven that merely taking care of your body is not enough. You get antsy, even feel depressed because you cannot have all that you want. You want more.
Yoga’s ancient sages knew this about humans. Mere physical satisfaction is not, ahem, satisfying. Our mental capacities and need for relationship are as important as physical needs, often more important. Fortunately yoga’s physical practices empower you to use your body to improve the condition of both your mind and heart — and even more importantly, to open access to your innermost spiritual dimensions.
Yet it can be confusing. You might think that mastering the poses will make you enlightened. Nope, it doesn’t work that way. Working with your body and breath can help you heal traumas that prevented you from being fully present in life. But that’s not the same as getting enlightened; I call it getting enlivened.
You might think that doing more poses will give you more mental clarity or make you smarter. Nope, but the physical practice does make you more focused, so you can use your mental capabilities more fully. Still, it’s not the same as getting enlightened; I call it getting grounded.
Don’t confuse physical and emotional fulfillment with spiritual progress. For example, your body and heart are fully involved when you fall in love, which can be tremendously exhilarating, but it’s not spiritually uplifting. A modern-day sage, Ken Wilbur, calls this the “pre-trans fallacy” — that you pursue pre-rational goals but you hope for transcendent fulfillment. It doesn’t pay off.
Svaroopa® yogis can get stuck in the body, thinking they are fulfilling the goal of life when they trigger a few minutes of bliss every day. Svaroopa® yoga excels as a way access bliss. However it is the Bliss of Consciousness, not mere physical bliss. When you confuse the two, you remain in the pre-rational state that Wilbur warns about: like an adolescent or like an animal who lacks rational thinking.
How can you tell if you’re using yoga to stay stuck in your body and emotions? One litmus test is a simple question: Do you believe anyone can get enlightened in this day and age? It’s curious that many practicing a spiritual discipline cannot imagine that it delivers on its promise.
In my years with my Guru, I saw people around him becoming more and more brilliant, shining with the light of Consciousness. They didn’t parade around with a special hairdo or button that said, “Look at me!” But how could you not notice their light? The yogi who cannot see another’s upliftment misses out, not only overlooking others’ brilliance, but also losing out on having a role model who leads the way.
Worst of all, such a yogi doesn’t imagine their own future as being radiant with light. If you cannot see that someone else can get enlightened, how can you imagine you getting there? That means your future is limited to getting more of what you’ve already got. Please reconsider what choices you are pursuing so intently! Yoga offers you more, so much more. I recommend you focus on enlightenment. Your own Self is so close to you — closer than your breath.