Can you remember the last time you felt ALIVE.
Not just happy, content or proud but a life affirming, time stopping moment of ALIVENESS.
What preceded that moment, what stopped time to bring you to that moment of clarity, of oneness?
I'm guessing it wasn't necessarily the moment you expected? I believe moments of aliveness come when we least expect them, they're emotional rather than intellectual. We can't think or plan feeling alive because the ego mind gets over involved or attached and we lose the moment. When we've experienced that feeling the mind seeks to repeat it. However the spontaneity and awareness is lost in trying to recreate is as it becomes intellectualised, therefore susceptible to our samskaras, expectations, judgements, worries and fears.
Our sense of aliveness is obscured by fear. That fear may present itself in smaller worries or emotions, but they're rooted in fear. In order to feel alive, we need to do some emotional weeding. Fear is essential to our human survival however other emotions and worries, which are rooted in fear, prevent and suffocate our ability to truly live.
Fear of what others will think, fear of not being good enough, fear of the unknown and so on obscure the brightness of our soul. Our soul is the source of aliveness. The I-ness of fear separates us, when in fact our soul is not ours it is shared collectively. Not just humans, but with animals, nature and the whole planet: interdependent and intrinsically connected. Moments of aliveness are when we feel that deep connection. Everything we are and have experienced up to this point is as a product of our connections to something or someone. Some of those will be positive but others will be negative or destructive, either way the results of our connections influence how we connect and experience things in our future. The mind likes to ‘create stories and illusions rooted in fear that separates us from nature, from other people, even from our own bodies, essentially separating us from feeling alive. Our intellectual mind has its purpose but our aliveness requires diving deeper into the unknown, the unexplainable but very much experiential. It requires fearing less and feeling more, however this places us out of our comfort zone!
We live in a fear based society which is there to maintain control. We are conditioned to seek comfort, convenience and approval and to avoid discomfort, inconvenience and disapproval……but this is an illusion, this is not our true nature, it is not truly living.
Can we be more 'real'?.... what are we afraid of?
To quote Pippa Grange " Are we performing at life or living it."
How about instead of running for cover or trying to fix every uncomfortable feeling, we feel it and stay with it a little bit longer, see what it can teach us or reveal to us. This is part of the process of finding ourselves, enabling us to authentically connect with others, nature and our planet.
Let me bring this back to our yoga practice by referring back to ancient yoga texts. Patanjali elucidates how to live a meaningful and purposeful life and ultimately attain freedom through the 8 fold path or otherwise known as the 8 limbs of yoga. These are guidelines which can help to find ourselves, enabling us to authentically connect with others, nature and our planet.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga
YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows
NIYAMA – Positive duties or observances
ASANA – Posture
PRANAYAMA – Breathing techniques
PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal
DHARANA – Focused concentration
DHYANA – Meditative absorption
SAMADHI – Bliss or enlightenment
Generally we are more familiar with the third, fourth and fifth limbs in our weekly yoga classes however some of you will have explored the Yamas and Niyamas with me previously or will certainly be aware of certain individual yamas or Niyamas that have been included in class. (Take look at my Instagram posts on the Yamas and Niyamas https://www.instagram.com/paper_kite_yoga/ )
Moral restraints, which apply specifically to how you behave outwardly toward other beings:
Ahimsa, Satya , Asteya, Brahmacharya, Aparigraha.
Observances, which apply specifically to how you conduct yourself on a more personal level;
Saucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svadhyaya, Isvara-pranidhana.
However the last three limbs (Dharana – Focused concentration, Dhyana – Meditative absorption , Samadhi – Bliss or enlightenment) are scooped together and neatly packaged as our seated meditation practices and Savasana. Perhaps we don’t explore these last three limbs in more detail during our weekly class because they are more challenging and for most of us slip into the realm of ‘unattainable’.
The picture above shows a moment where I felt ALIVE. I experienced a sense of complete absorption in the moment, in the beauty of all life, deeply connected to everything. We had spent the day climbing Old Man Coniston. Towards the end it felt as if we would never reach the top, the end had moved out of sight and we faced a steep, scramble to the top. Having enjoyed the climb/walk so far I started to experience doubt that we would all make it to the top. Thighs starting to burn and motivation waning we carried on. When we got to the top the view was breathtaking, the satisfaction was huge and all sensations of exhaustion and muscle fatigue disappeared. I experienced a lightness and joy that literally freed me from the pain and suffering I had experienced only minutes before - hence the jump for joy! This is like the Eight Fold Path; not all steps will feel easy but according to Patanjali, the goal of Samadhi will bring liberation, freedom, bliss and enlightenment. On the path there will be times when we feel like we're making progress and other times we may feel like we've slipped back down to the bottom with the summit out of sight.
Nevertheless if we dive into Patanjali's sutras a little more we can find that there are various ‘states’ of samadhi that we can experience along the way. The quality and duration of these states of samadhi depend very much on the steps we have taken to arrive there. The 8 fold path are guidelines not rules therefore it's a very personal journey.
BKS Iyengar’s commentary on Patanjali’s sutra 1:18 -
“The word used for this state is virama pratyaya. In it the sadhaka rests in a highly evolved state in which intelligence is still...Like a river joining the sea, the mind is dissolving into the self."
It is my personal understanding that the moments of ALIVENESS I’ve described are beautiful temporary states of samadhi. A glimpse of that freedom and liberation that's available to us all.
Our November classes will:
Include practices at the beginning of class to help release old energy, held tension and ingrained thought patterns.
Include asanas and prep to help strengthen our centre, from which all movement originates.
Include asanas to ground us. Moving us back into our bodies, fostering a connection to our support and the earth.
Explore asanas that may have previously given rise to fear and worry - we will play with aspects of them to release that mind-made fear so we can experience the essence of the asana.
Allow time for stillness and maybe moments of unexpected aliveness.
I look forward to exploring all of this with you this month whether that's in person or online.
“Don't seek, don't search, don't ask, don't knock, don't demand ~ relax. If you relax it comes, if you relax it is there. If you relax, you start vibrating with it.” Osho
Om shanti, shanti, shanti