Written by Amanda Whittal.
As I pondered what fascinating new information I could bring you from the world of yoga and holistic living, a dear friend unknowingly dropped some inspiration into my lap.
He called to share a peculiar dream he had experienced, in which he found himself removed from his body. He recalled running, then suddenly feeling as though his body had gotten away from him and having to chase it - much like one would chase an 'escaped' moving vehicle. The entire description was intriguing to say the least, and quite comical to listen to.
On a deeper note, however, it stirred in me the question: "who was chasing the runaway body?" If my friend was not his body, then who or what was this entity pursuing the physical form?
For years people have investigated the notion of the human soul, pondered the origin and dwelling place of consciousness, and questioned what 'me' or 'I' truly refers to.
I make no claims to have any newly discovered answers. What I can offer, however, is some insight into how these profound questions are approached from a yogic and holistic health perspective.
It is unlikely that we are just this mass of chemical processes we call our bodies. Our capacities to think, feel, inspire, dream and make wilful choices suggest otherwise. Equally unlikely is the concept that we are only our minds, as Descartes once suggested. At times such as during meditation, when thought process temporarily ceases to be, some form of consciousness remains.
These arguments could be endlessly disputed, but for the purposes of this article, I will leave it at the standpoint that we are neither solely our bodies, nor solely our minds, but perhaps something more.
Take this inquiry and infuse it into your practice of yoga. The word 'yoga', in its literal sense, means union, referring to the connection between body, mind and *gasp, yes I do dare say it* soul. The practice, in its traditional form, was created as a self-exploration, seeking to understand and know oneself through movement and intense introspection. Similarly, holistic healing approaches individuals as multidimensional beings, seeking to optimize wellness and vitality on all levels.
Both disciplines recognize the many complex facets that make up a human being, and make an attempt to tap into them all. From personal experience and that of others, I am confident in saying that this task is at least in some ways successfully achieved.
In our daily lives, we have a tendency to be consumed either by our frantic thoughts - thinking about past events or anticipating future ones - or by the pain in our physical bodies as they begin to protest to our unbalanced lifestyles.
Through dedicated practice in these areas, we can begin to connect to a different part of ourselves, the quiet observer who is always watching the antics of our bodies and minds. It is through this connection that we begin to know ourselves more, and find a place of peace and contentment within.
Just where is all this philosophical talk getting us? It potentially allows us to see that the discussion and understanding, while interesting, is not really all that necessary. You can feel the effects of your yoga practice, and you can notice the benefits of your holistic treatments, without having to know anything at all. Each of us holds and it entitled to our own viewpoints on the nature and/or existence of the soul, etc, but consider the idea that these intellectual constructs bear little to no impact on the nature of the very thing we are trying so hard to define.
Perhaps then, it is sufficient to acknowledge our multidimensional character, whatever that means to you. It may be time, in our information age, to embrace the joy of living in the mystery, and look at ourselves and life as we are, without any preconceived expectations or explanations. For it is here that the greatest 'magic' occurs, when we stop trying to figure out who we are, and just simply be as we are, allowing life to unfold effortlessly before us. Om Shanti. Peace. May you find it in this wisdom.
*I would like to leave you with a poem to portray this concept:
The True Art
I wake up each day
Wondering if this one will be more significant than the last
I wake up each day
With that familiar rise of anxiety, wondering what I'm not getting, though I try harder all the time
I wake up each day
Realizing my ever declining zest for life...where did I go wrong?
I start to wake up each day with a decision
To take it one day, one hour, one moment at a time
I start to wake up each day
Feeling the triumphant return of long lost passion
I wake up one day,
Look at where I am and where I've been
I laugh at the simplicity of it all, turn, head out the door...
...and continue to live my life, rather than ponder it.