“Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence. When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded Consciousness. Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by the activity of the mind.” ~ Patanjali.
We often underestimate what can happen when we spend time on our yoga mat.
We just see it as a practice, as something we love doing that makes us feel wonderful. But it’s more than that. In our practice we have the opportunity to tap into something profoundly divine.
I came back to yoga after a significant period of pain and loss. I remember the first month on the mat was very shaky but I persisted because with the pain came a concurrent release, a point of grace.
I loved being surrounded by others as our breaths tried to find their deepening, as they broke out in jagged rasps and groans.
One day the teacher told us to set an intention for this class. I’d heard it before, many years ago. Some of my past teachers had made a practice of it. Set your intention. Be focused. Be present.
In that moment I felt an overwhelming need to set an intention of silence. It came with a flood of joy. Of course. I had surrounded myself with so much noise in order to survive, but in those months of battling with my body on the mat and persisting, something had changed.
I had avoided silence. I was scared of the ghosts that might accompany it. Now I was excited about it. I had started to crave communion with the internal.
So I set an intention of silence.
I bowed, my arms floated down to the floor, my calf muscles lengthened, I felt release in my lower back.
Set an intention of silence. Try it. See if it’s okay.
I deepened my breath. I didn’t think what silence was, I didn’t try to work out what it meant. I didn’t project upon it. I decided to welcome it.
As the legs flew backwards and the body rose into plank—I felt something. A depth. It was textural. Like the universe, the darkness of the expanding nothingness, the stars, the velvet space of silence—a blanket; a warm wrapping.
I realised that this space didn’t come from anything else happening in the room, but that this great sweep of wonder was within in me.
Set an intention of silence.
The darkness was free of angst, of hurt, of joy, of love. It was sparkling—the world inside a telescope.
It was the most exquisite state. As I flowed into warrior I welcomed this silence, the echoes of night air in canyons, the warm winds, rocks stroked by moonlight, flying clouds. It embodied. It was.
I could bend into this. It would move and shape with me. It was inside and expanding at the same time.
I set an intention of silence.
The universe had shown itself as majestic.
The class came to a close and I grabbed my mat and left. I didn’t tell anyone about it. It was too intimate for that, this realisation of a dark, velvet, star-tipped space that was beyond pleasure…that touched the divine within me.
Silence has its own quality.
I’ve accessed it since, particularly on the mat, within the space of the breath. I’ve remembered it under a dome of sky in the mountains, in the reflection of the clouds on a lake on a freezing night, in the cavern of a church.
Many say that one should seek happiness but that has never felt true for me. I’ve always felt there’s something else, a greater thing than the momentary rush of joy.
There’s something behind all positive states we have, a deep, velvet silence that holds us in slow motion, that radiates outward. Patanjali and others call it consciousness. I call it silence.
I won’t seek this. I see now that it’s within me. It has always been and will always be even if my body becomes dust.
That is the exquisite silence of yoga: the ability to access the universe on the mat and as we live day-to-day. The large space of silence—the gift of within.
Author: Kaylia Dunstan
Image: Dream Yoga (Flickr)
Apprentice Editor: Thayne Ulschmid; Editor: Catherine Monkman