I am not an academic nor a scholar. I am a practitioner, a student of Yoga. I seek greater awareness in mastering self-understanding on this path of self-realisation through my body, my mind, my feelings, and my breath. My Yoga practice is an intimate relationship between my human condition and my soul seeking to experience that which is beyond words and is known as the source of all knowledge. What am I? I use my body as a vehicle to feel it’s warmth, to sense it’s presence, to know it’s truth as my practice is one of seeking spiritual experiences of this true essence of what I really am. The practice of faith, trust and discipline of the body, mind and breath, takes a personal awakening to it. The Divine within us, as us and which is working for us to wake us up to it’s presence in everything.
What would it be like to live without fear, self-doubt, anger or resentment. What would it be like to break the cycle of suffering? What would it feel like to be content, free, fulfilled, joyous, serene, trusting and still? I love studying this cycle and habit we as humans face in viewing our inner and outer battle. This irregular, clouded, fear-based vail pulls us into attraction and repulsion to desirable and undesirable thoughts, feelings that arise due to the actions we take. I find that all this does is mask what is always there, the state of Yoga; this light, serenity and calmness as a result of stilling the thoughts and feelings within.
As I sit on my mat, I get honest with myself. I create awareness of how controlled I am by my senses, my memories, my habits, my ego, my default of conditioned genetic inheritance. I realise that I spend a lot of my time unconsciously taking action in my day. I am unaware of which side of the mouth I started brushing my teeth this morning, which foot I started with getting dressed, the route in which to get to my first client. The mental loop of insecurity I take to keep me trapped in this negative bias of life is overwhelming, heavy and stressful. Forgetting this current of awakened perception behind this sleeping untrained mind. All of this colours the choices in my day, how I take action. I am a sum total of all my choices. Everything that has lead me to this moment is due to all my previous choices. It is impossible to not take action in life. Babies desire to crawl, our bodies desire food, we seek purpose. What guides and motivates my choices or actions? Desire. And desire causes Karma, more action.
Fundamentally all humans have four essential desires to fulfil.
Dharma, the desire to know our purpose in this lifetime, filled with our moral and ethical virtues and unique path to serve our duties.
Artha, the means and tools to financially support the activities of our dharma.
Kama, to honour our sensuality, sexuality and enjoyment in creating art, being touched by beauty and relationships in the form of sex and procreation.
Moksha, the personal journey to thy sacred seat of serenity, contentment, liberation and freedom. To be self-realised, to be whole, complete, at peace.
Our desires become distorted by our ignorance, greed and addictive clinging to external objects in which we start this destructive cycle of mis-identifying with our ego. Who am I? I am my status. I am my property. I am my body. I am my thoughts. I am my conditioned beliefs. These all influence our unconscious daily activities and our future choices, our karma.
How do we choose differently? Self-Awareness is the first step. Change the momentum of consciousness to stop and observe. This then gives room for self-study and understanding ourselves as we walk this path. To give us a greater chance, the methodology of Yoga helps point us in certain directions to gather this awakened contemplation in practicing to find our own conclusions to this experience of what we truly are and how to live by it.
In the Bhagavad Gita, the character of Arjuna is a great archer, warrior and devoted student of Yoga facing a war on the Kurukshera, the field of action. He is advised by Krishna, God, educating him on fulfilling his desires to serve the Universal desire for him to win this battle by means of skilful actions.
The image of an archer serves us in understanding ourselves with greater clarity. The archer is seen holding a bow and arrow which are being shot. The quiver is full of arrows and there are arrows on the ground waiting to be formed for future use. The targets are infinite, however each arrow thrown whether or not hitting the target has a consequence, reaction and a karmic fallout.
To simplify understanding for ourselves and the actions we take, there are three types of Karma described in the Bhagavad Gita:
The active karma that is destiny, fate and actions that are in play now. These are the arrows in the bow aiming for a target, the arrows in flight and the arrows that have landed whether or not they make the target. This represents all our infinite number of choices that we take at any given time. The choice to entertain a thought, a feeling, a habit, an identification, how we relate, ultimately how we choose to engage with life and the consequences of these choices already playing themselves out creating more karma.
This is the vault of stored experiences, memories, habits, routines, tendencies, all known and unknown impressions that colour our perception of life. For example if we are in love, all we see is targets through rose coloured glasses. If we are depressed, all we see is dark, heavy and overwhelming targets. If we are anxious, all we see is stress, uncertainty and fearful targets. What we think and feel based on previous experiences and current mood state of mind. (gunas)
These are the potential choices as these have been assembled. We manufacture these arrows depending on how we aim the arrow, the motive behind choosing the target and if we hit or miss the target. We have a choice of freewill to shape, pick and shoot which arrows will be most effective in attaining our desires.
Again what motivates and guides us? Our desires. Becoming clearer on what is motivating us is key. Through Asana, Pranayama, contemplation, prayer, mantra and meditation we become more skilful in understanding what is driving us. We empower the ability to see, be awake, be aware of our conditioned reactions and learn to delay this impulse to see how to respond. This is called Viveka, or a keen discernment, non-judgemental awareness, discriminating awareness lead by this essence of the truest part of you. It is the source of all knowledge that is illuminated by pure conscious awareness. To be able to master this ability to see with clarity, we must practice, Abhyasa. This is a regular focused practice, dedicated to the path of self-study and contemplation in search for this inner truth. This practice is only completed by the ability to willingly and lovingly surrenderer what is found, Viaragya. The goal for the Yogi is to stay in the detached witnessing awareness, bespoking one’s practices for regular and consistent dedication in facing challenging situations remaining awake in the known essence of what we are and taking skilful action in fulfilling our four desires.
So, we practice with meditation to gain understanding and knowledge of the accumulated impressions and choices we hold in our quiver. We strive to recognise and be ready to remove the arrows that don’t serve us, our community and our ultimate desires. We also take responsibility for the arrows that missed targets. We become accountable for our actions and make amends to those we have harmed due to our ignorant and mislead choices. As we become humbled by accepting our part in this story of life we improve our aim. We become a better archer which then reduces karma as we hit the desired target with clarity of mind, heart and spirit.
It is suggested that the archer can take paths to this freedom or Moksha revealed in the Bhagavad Gita. The four paths are:
The path of Karma Yoga, yoga of action.
The path of Jnana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge.
The path of Raja Yoga, the yoga of meditation.
The path of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion.
Just being a good skilful archer doesn’t itself bring enlightenment. The archer is a student who embraces three techniques to perfect this skill in hopes of gaining self-awareness, mastery of self-knowledge and experiencing self-actualisation:
Tapas: Austerity, the heat of self-practice, discipline and patience in sitting with the causes of suffering to experience self-realisation. The stamina and willpower to skilfully master the path of Karma Yoga.
Svadhyaya: Self-study, the inquiry inwards by education in all forms, spiritual scripture, teachings by others that have come before you to gain insight into the truth of things by the means of Jnana Yoga.
Ishvara Pranidhana: Self-surrender, the letting go of oneself and actions to the source of all knowledge and higher reality. The act of handing one’s own will and life over to the care of a power greater within devoting all fruits received from tapas and svadhyaya to serve the universal dharma. Bhakti and Raja Yoga.
The image below symbolises the mastery of karma by directing the arrow from the earthly form up the central channel, sushumna nadi, merging with the causal form of pure consciousness. Then one can be ultimately free from the cycle of birth, life and death.
I haven’t reached enlightenment. I am a daughter, wife, mother, friend, a teacher amongst my titles and all of these roles are teachers that help point me to the truth that I choose; to be a student of Yoga and Meditation. I seek to experience more moments where I am aware-ful and awake-ful of the essence of my own being, to open myself to receive those teachings that reveal the light of knowledge within me, ultimately to allow that light to guide my actions as I navigate down this path of mine practicing these principles of Yoga in all of my affairs.
OM TAT SAT “all that is,” is supreme absolute truth. That this truth is within us, as us, and all around us, working for us to wake us up to its presence in everything. We are whole, complete, free, joyous, serene, and fulfilled now. This moment, when all thoughts and feelings are stilled, experiencing the essence of who we really are, now the teachings of Yoga can begin.
Upcoming workshops & retreats with Zephyr Wildman:
Sunday 29th January Breath-centric Kriya Practice Workshop at The Life Centre Notting Hill to book click here
18 & 19 February Anatomy Centred Approach to Alignment at Yogacampus to book click here
Luxury Moroccan Yoga Retreat 15-21st May to book click here
Greek Island Yoga Retreat 15-22nd July to book click here