Yoga and Enlightenment: Finding the unshakeable Self

By Marilyn Galan

Many of us who practice yoga know that yoga just feels good. Talk to a yoga student about why he started learning yoga, and he may tell you he heard from a friend that it was good for calming work stress. Another yoga participant may say she just wanted to lose weight. Another wanted to heal back ache. The benefits of yoga continue…

But, enlightenment? Is enlightenment really possible for the average person?

Enlightenment is a Wonder

Enlightenment is a wonder. Our own ideas of enlightenment pop into mind: all-knowingness, a perpetual smile and a mystical presence. Yes, and wasn’t it in the Matrix, when the movie’s hero dodges his enemies by stopping time in an enlightened state? Somehow, these ideas of enlightenment seem a bit too supernatural for everyday life. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of The Art of Living says, “Enlightenment is very possible for the ordinary individual. Whenever someone is ordinary, simple, innocent and natural, that is enlightenment.”

We do catch glimpses of this state of mind. Most of the time, it is all covered up in the stresses of day-to-day life. Like when a memory of a childhood dream flashes in the mind. It creeps up when answering emails at work. “Write a song? Play the guitar and sing? No way, I could never do that!” goes the cassette tape stuck somewhere in the mind (if you find it can you tell me?) Erroneous negative perceptions tend to form the concepts we build up about ourselves that block us from our natural state.

And yes, I do admit I really did jump around the house playing my dad’s tennis racket like an electric guitar. Didn’t you?

Glimpses of Awareness

Like a musician who dreams up a song knows, he just has to trust the process. And it can be a little scary. First a few words crystallize in his consciousness. Then a melody. Some time passes, and the musician wonders, “Is that all?” Slowly, a few guitar chords chime in from somewhere in the unseen. The musician strikes his guitar strings following the invisible instruction. Soon a river of words begins to flow, forming lyrics that rhyme. The musician waits for each new word to be revealed from the ether. As if time has stood still, a new song is born.

In this state, the mind is fully in the present moment. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar describes it like this, “Whatever is necessary is revealed to you in such a natural and spontaneous way. You just sit and the song flows through you.”

Yoga Builds the Mystery

Practicing yoga is a chance to take a break from the busy day. Yoga redirects our focus to the quiet center within ourselves. The world outside doesn’t seem to matter much when you are bending forward, stretching for your toes. After all those yoga stretches and breathing exercises, the body can settle down into meditation. Something within has quieted down and the mind relaxes. We return to the source of the song.

Discipline of Yoga

Making a commitment to show up on the yoga mat every day, we can build our awareness of this relaxed state. The same small events and situations that used to bother us so much just don’t have the same pinch anymore. Through yoga and meditation, we can become more aware of the thoughts and emotions in the mind, and more often.

Maturing in Yoga

With further practice of yoga and meditation, it is possible to become more established in this sense of peace. The positive feeling we get after yoga pushes us to keep moving forward. Gurudev says, “The completion of knowledge will lead you to amazement and wonder. Mysteries are to be lived, not understood. Enlightenment is that state of being so mature and unshakable in any circumstance.”

(Marilyn is a yoga enthusiast who loves to incorporate her inspiration about yoga postures and spirituality into her writing and art.)