Getting to know ourselves means bumping into our HIGHEST SELF!
As I was discussing during the past weeks, the three practices that truly bring us happiness are developing our will-power, getting to know ourselves, and keeping God in our awareness. I mentioned firing up (tapas) our will-power and studying all the different aspects of ourselves (svadyaya). As we continue to examine our physical needs of eating, sleeping, desiring affection, and protecting ourselves against threats, we run into our mental world of hopes, dreams, and expectations for the happy life. Those thought patterns (samskaras) just surface automatically. We can’t help ourselves. Or should I say, our mind can’t help itself.
We constantly go back to our old habits. We start remembering all the wonderful goals we have and all the thoughts that move us closer to or get in the way of fulfilling them. We remember how wonderful and bright life was at certain times, before all the confusion and doubts and painful experiences began to block the sun from those situations and events.
At this point, in our journey toward happiness, we have to continue to notice how we are breathing. We begin to realize that our breath becomes smooth, continuous, and even. We find our mind falling in love with our breath. It starts to experience stillness, one-pointedness, pleasure. As we pay even closer attention to the sweetness of our breath, we observe our breath getting longer and slower and quieter. We notice that we are relaxing. The mind has stopped its roaming tendencies even for a short while, AND WE LOVE IT!
STILLNESS REIGNS! THE TRUE SELF SHINES!
This is the experience of God within us, even for a brief moment. It may not be an extended length of time – it may only be a few seconds – but the essence of our life, our spirit, lets itself be known. In Sanskrit, the Yoga Sutra calls this the practice of “Ishvara pranidhana,” surrendering to the Highest Goal or God. From that point on, nothing is the same.
How do we know that this moment of peace and joy is not just us, but something beyond ourselves as well? That essential core, that “chip off the Old Spirit,” just seems bigger than anything we could make. We know then that there is a transcendent part of us and we revel in that joyous awareness.
We are now aware of that highest goal, namely, becoming more and more conscious of our oneness with our highest Self. We begin to long for that union-experience daily, hourly, every second. This is pure happiness—some would say it is heaven!
So how can we train the mind to remember this so that we don’t have to all the time pause and feel our breath?
Many religions have suggestions for making this awareness grow in our lives. Christianity says, “repeat the Jesus prayer (‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.’) in your mind constantly.” Islam tells its faithful to pray 5 times a day, and repeat “Allah akbar” (God is great!) over and over again, no matter what happens. The Jewish mystics encourage “mishnah” (repetition) in the daily praying of all Jews.
In the yoga tradition, all one needs to do is repeatedly allow the mind to enjoy the breath coming in and out of the nostrils, feeling the cool and the warm of the flow. Then we will know God!
Happy Breathing! Happy Knowing that the Divine Source of Life is always with you!