Yoga teaches us that we are not our thoughts and feelings, but something much deeper.
One of the primary reasons we practice yoga, meditate and do pranayama (breath work) is to disconnect from our constantly yammering ego, which I liken to a bunch of second graders at recess, and connect instead to our essential selves, aka, the wise teacher sitting on the bench while the children play, calmly observing the mayhem with a gentle smile on her face.
Last night at about 3:30 am, I was awakened by what sounded like a bunch of dump trucks firing up at a construction site. It was actually just my husband snoring. As I lay there miserably, my mind racing, obsessing over the fact the I would never get back to sleep and all the things I had to do in the morning (and the afternoon and the evening), an image popped into my head.
I saw all those ragged thoughts and the stress that came along with them as raindrops pelting the surface of an ominous ocean. Those droplets accumulated into a huge storm, raging all the way to the horizon, and I could perceive both the magnitude of it and the individual pellets of water that peppered the roiling sea.
I imagined I was floating in that sea, the rain blinding me, the wind pushing clumps of wet hair into my eyes. I saw myself thrashing and fighting to keep my head above water, and I felt myself becoming quickly exhausted. I understood how pointless it was—I had no chance against the tempest that seethed around me.
Tired of fighting, I decided to let myself simply sink. I sank down a few inches below the chop. The relief was immediate. I gazed up at the mayhem above me—the madness—and realized how superficial it was. Just two inches down and I felt total calm. The water pulsed with currents, but I floated with minimal effort. I allowed my body to rest, and my limbs to move fluidly.
I found I could breathe without effort and smiled as I looked around the big peaceful expanse beneath me.
Feeling I could go deeper still, I let out a big sigh and drifted all the way to the ocean floor. I remembered that I had been here before, in this very state of mind, but I hadn’t understood what it really was.
This was the place of being. No ideas, no emotions—I’d left all that behind on the surface of the sea. The was the place at the center of the earth, at the center of all beings, at the center of me.
My body settled into the sand, swaying softly in rhythm with the seaweed that grew in translucent fronds all around. Fish slipped soundlessly above me like chips of animated stained glass, and in one hand I held a shell, smooth and cool against my skin…
When the alarm rang at 6:30 am, I slapped at it in shock. I hadn’t even remembered falling asleep. My spontaneous meditation came rushing back to me in all its exquisite detail. I could see, so clearly, the thoughts and emotions which had built that storm out on the ocean and that it was my willingness to let them go which had brought me peace.
I turned to my husband, still snoring, and gently placed my hand on his broad shoulder. Then I eased on out of bed and tip toed downstairs to pack lunches, flip pancakes, sort laundry. The air felt liquid and my heart wide open.
Smiling to myself, I murmured “Thank you”, for now I had a map to find my place of being.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise