Ten years ago I was introduced to meditation and to this day I will lay claim that it saved my life.
As I delved into the practice with absolute enthusiasm, I found myself having all sorts of mystical inexpressible experiences. I found love and forgiveness for myself and in turn for those who I felt hurt by, I was able to let go of anger and make leaps and bounds in personal development. I was voted “biggest turn around” in my high school and I began to share my intuitional findings with anyone that was interested.
Fast forward five years and despite changing little in meditation practice other than the depth that I was practicing at, I no longer had this desire to speak – to anyone. I had grown frightfully thin – feeling guilty about anything that I put in my mouth, not because I worried about being fat, but I did not want to take from the environment and also because I no longer identified with the basic needs of my body. I made other poor decisions during this time, writing them off as being “over with” once I had completed them, knowing that the only true reality was in the moment and anything past, good or bad, was not real anyway.
My bouts of anger or moments of untruthfulness “didn’t count” because the physical world wasn’t real to me anymore anyway. My desire to share my truths dwindled with the recognition that what I was experiencing could never really be articulated in full, and I gave up on the book I had set out to write about it all. I isolated myself, to a degree that I missed out on a great deal of fun during the last years of my college life due to my dedication to get up at five in the morning before class or work to run and meditate. When relationship troubles came forth my solution was to react as I always had, then ignore the person and go meditate on it until I was able to release it in my personal life, never actually dealing with the problem on the interpersonal level.
I was dangerously detached from my body and I had jumped into a practice without knowledge of the basic foundations that are necessary prerequisites to sustaining the meditative life that I was living. The happiness and joy that I had once felt was replaced with an overwhelming sense of doom and despair – what’s the point of living on this Earth? It’s all an illusion and an illusion that I want to break free from! Now! I want to go to this place in my head and never leave. Ever. I was becoming the walking dead. And my attachment to my previous feelings of bliss and well-being haunted me to no avail. I wanted to find my way back to this place. After all, the reason I dug so deep was to keep seeking this spiritual pleasure and I found myself relentlessly working to re-acquire my sense of bliss.
After some years of this a fellow student in a Buddhist Tantra class that I was taking at Florida State University invited me to attend a local yoga class with her. This marked the beginning of a long process of gently re-awakening awareness of my body and developing a sense of compassion that was applicable in the realm that I actually physically resided in. It was not necessarily a fun, easy or enjoyable process.
In fact it was quite painful at first, but once I realized that this practice was the counterpart to the philosophy I so deeply identified with, I dedicated myself to becoming familiar with it. I was delighted to learn all the details of the yogic and vedantic philosophy at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre where I received my trainings, and upon learning about the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asanas (postures) and pranayama (breath control) portion of raja yoga, it became clear that what I had done was fail to cultivate the basic necessities designed to sustain the more subtle yogic life of meditation.
The yamas and the niyamas are essentially practices of restraint on the levels of thought, word and deed. The yamas consist of ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (no stealing), brahmacarya (celibacy) and aparigraha (non-acceptance of gifts) The niyamas consist of sauca (external and internal cleanliness), santosa (contentment), tapas (austerities, self-control but in a gentle way, not one that harms the body), svadhyaya (self study and study of the scriptures), and isvara pranidhana (self-surrender/ abiding in the presence of God at all times). Pranayama is the practice of breath control and asanas the practice of bodily control. Obviously I had cultivated some of these practices naturally, but others I was completely to oblivious to, and it was this ignorance that was causing my inevitable demise.
It’s taken another two years and counting to go back and correct where I went wrong from the beginning. Rebuilding the basic requirements of yamas, niyamas, pranayama and asanas before re-approaching my previous practice of pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and attempts at samadhi (realization) with the humility of character and energetic strength and endurance developed by the first four limbs.
I am writing this in hopes to reach those of you out there who may have made a similar mistake. There is a wealth of knowledge available today via books and the internet and we are supplied with so many techniques that in actuality we may be unequipped to deal with. Many of us embark upon these new found mind-blowing practices only to find ourselves falling away from ourselves and desperately reaching and grasping for a sense of balance and comfort. In fact, jumping into any of the practices without the support and balance of the previous limb is a recipe for strife or in some cases even more detrimental consequences.
We must remember that though we are spiritual beings, we do still exist in these bodies and we must never struggle against what is. Struggling against what is creates resistance in our lives, and where there is resistance there can be no flow, no movement, no growth. Rather we must learn to accept what is and seek a balance between the finite and the infinite in order to fully understand the dynamics of who we are and what we are here to do. The raja yoga system beautifully addresses this notion with a systemization of techniques aimed at fulfilling the depths of both the existent and potential aspects of our being. The practice of yoga is a way to nurture and nourish our souls in a gentle but systematic way, ensuring that our growth is steady, sustained and without unnecessary suffering. After all, no seed ever gave fruit without first being planted, watered and shined upon.
edited by Greg Eckard
Brittany Jade Trubridge (B.A. Psychology) is a Yoga Acharya of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, A 500h RYT, and an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor with specialties in Reiki, acupressure, crystal, and chakra therapies. Brittany is also the wife and coach of 15-time World Record holding freediver, William Trubridge, and has a great depth of experience in both sports psychology and the synergy between yoga and freediving. Skilled in the ancient healing arts of yoga and Ayurveda and passionate about Vedantic philosophy, Brittany embodies and teaches the true classical healing arts of yoga. Visit www.BrittanyTrubridge.com to learn more.