Off The Mat

A Quiet Mind and Open Heart Lead to a Luminous Spirit

AshtangaYogaOBX — November 11, 2014
Off The Mat

There is a place we all know.  It is always new; forever flowing with time. It is our essence, our inner knowing.  To access this inner space, we must be silent.  The mind must be still.  The goal of yoga is to establish ourselves in this space.

We seek to find balance between our mind, our body, and our spirit.  In Ashtanga Yoga, by working with the body and observing our breath, we slow the thoughts down and bring our awareness into the present moment.  There may even be a moment of quietness experienced, bringing all three planes into harmony.  This is having “a glimpse of the experience.”

This glimpse keeps us going, day in and day out, week after week, month after month, year after year, and for some of us possibly for the rest of our lives.  This quiet space of refuge is always available to us. It is where we get fed, recharge, and rejuvenate ourselves.  Personally, I crave to be there every day.

Daily practice helps bring awareness to taking care of our body, which means different things to different people.  Most likely, you begin to pay more attention to what you eat and drink and notice the way different foods affect you.

The physical level would also include your basic sustenance.  How do you make your livelihood?  Do you have enough? Do you have more than enough? If so, what are you doing with your “more than enough”?  Is my livelihood in alignment with my highest good?  Am I balancing my basic responsibilities and obligations well?

When the body is healthy, the mind is not distracted by the feeling of pain. Practice will stimulate the mind, but it will also bring greater levels of clarity, dispelling confusion and excess chatter.  By letting go of extraneous thoughts, you free up your mind for what is really important. Over time you will increase your concentration which causes daily tasks to move more efficiently. Basically, you begin to get more done in less time. You learn to utilize your time and energy more effectively.

If your practice is regular, over time the mind slowly unwinds.  When you are in the presence of a good teacher, this process is expedited, but either way it should work.  You should be working to change those automatic patterns of thought that constrain and enslave you.  Yes, it is familiar, but again, not as productive to your growth and limiting to the possibility of your human experience.

The spirit is the most mysterious layer and also perhaps one of the most neglected.  People have been arguing about what the spiritual reality or truth is for eons.  There are many books, philosophies, religions, stories, and theories all trying to explain and describe this truth.  Read about them.  It is helpful.

I would, however, like to speak of spirit from less of a scholarly perspective and more from direct experience.  I feel that it is unique to the individual and cannot be explained or tied up nicely into a pretty box with a bow and ribbon.

The beauty of spirit is that it is not tangible. In fact, if you are trying to grasp onto a concrete explanation or description of it, I think you have lost your path.  Spirit cannot be contained or controlled or described in one way.  It is an experience that is unique to everyone.  Not only is it unique to the individual, it is always changing within the same individual from one moment to the next.  Here is where letting go is a requirement. If you are seeking control, you may miss it!

If the experience of spirit is foreign to you, I would suggest you close your eyes and take a deep breath; let your mind and your worries fall away for a moment, and let yourself feel. Stay awake and alert in mind so you will be aware of the experience, but let your heart sing!

It is an experience inside all of us, and I feel the way in is through the heart. Listen…Spirit is the precious and fulfilling experience that is life.

One of my favorite Joseph Campbell quotes is, “We are not looking for the meaning of life.  We are looking for an experience to know that we are alive!”

There are many reasons we may close down to this layer of experience in life.  Mostly, it comes down to fear.  We are afraid of rejection, feeling uncomfortable, pain, and death.  Sometimes it seems easier not to feel at all rather than risk feeling pain.  It is a protection.  At what point does this fear take away our ability to live life?

Joseph Campbell also says that when we choose to open up and embrace the experience, it means opening up to all things, even pain.  When we open up to pain, when we let ourselves feel it, surely we do know that we are alive!

In closing, I would encourage everyone to stay true to your heart.  Make sure your heart beats to the rhythm of the Universe.  Try to remain in harmony with yourself and with those around you.  This extends not only to other people, but plants, animals, and the physical Earth.

There are some things that are even greater than fame, money, and power.  These things may come as a by-product of following your heart and aligning with spirit.  Paramahansa Yogananda says, “God first, money is his slave.”

Feed your body and your mind, but more importantly, feed your soul.  Get out of your own way and legalize freedom. Make space for your spirit to shine.  Be unafraid to bring your own unique expression through.

With Blessings to All Beings,

Michelle Dorer
Owner, Director, Teacher – Ashtanga Yoga Center, Outer Banks, NC

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