I have been studying the the iRest approach to Yoga Nidra recently and in the teaching manual, founder and teacher Richard Miller talks about the qualities of our true nature:
Loving, Kindness, Presence, Unconditional, Peaceful, Friendliness, Unattached, Happy, Joyfulness, Faith, Trusting, Transparency, Mindfulness, Responsive, Purity, Truthfulness, Contentment, Luminous, Powerful, Knowing, Full, Empty, Tender, Spontaneous, Authentic, Creative, Intimate, Complete, Aware (and more).
Who would not want these qualities to fill our lives? In fact, they are already present with us (we are always whole) – we can witness kind acts, friendliness, ease, creativity etc. as everyday happenings. We are not so separate from our true nature as we may sometimes believe.
Our practice is to create the conditions for these qualities to blossom forth. They are already within us … we are these qualities … yoga practice is there to soften the tension, the barriers, the holding, the wounds, to come home to our true nature, to live as our true nature.
And we can help ourselves along the path by cultivating an attitude of ease and friendliness in our yoga practice.
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
What makes Yoga a somewhat unique spiritual path is it’s embodiment, that a very important aspect of the practice is connecting into our physical body in quite a profound way. It’s through the senses that we experience our life. Through our sensorial experience we may feel this “rapture of being alive”.
Holding A Space For Ourselves
First, let us have an intention of safety and ease. That we practice within a container of a safe space. Actively holding a space for ourselves within which to practice. Can we be safe with ourselves? We are often very good at holding space for others, caring for others. In a safe space we can befriend ourselves.
Let our practice be one of delight. A spontaneous (note that spontaneity is one of the qualities of our true nature) exploration of movement. How may we approach each and every practice, every posture, every movement with a fresh curiosity? How is this movement initiating, transferring and completing?
May we begin an active and friendly dialogue with our body.
Let each movement be delightful, pleasant and joyful. May we begin an active and friendly dialogue with our body. We can ask ourselves, what is our body requiring of us. What would suit our body right now? What message is our body sending us?
And how do we respond? What message do we send back? Every movement and posture could be a message to the body … to open here, to strengthen here, to soften here. It could be a message to the nervous system to be more at ease, to melt the tension and stress and allow a more parasympathetic response to be present.
As the dialogue continues through your practice it may take unexpected twists and turns. We may begin by feeling that our body needs great gentleness. A restorative practice. And then as we let go of our stress and we begin to restore our energy levels, our body gives us a message that it would like a more active practice and we find ourselves doing a series of sun salutations.
May we be creative in the way we listen to and respond to our body’s messages. If our body says it would like to open and stretch here, then let us respond in kind. If it says I can stay in this pose longer as it feels ready to create strength and stamina, then respond in kind. If the body says actually I want to come down and rest by lying in Constructive Rest position, then, again, respond in kind.
May we develop a trust of our body’s messages. If you are unsure of what the message is, pause, breathe and ere on the side of ease-fullness. If you do not know where to begin, imagine you are simply waking up in the morning, giving yourself a little stretch and movement, and follow on from there. If you are used to a very “strong” practice, can you tolerate a softer approach (and vice versa)? So that we develop the capacity to have a choice, and make wise choices in response to what is present for us.
A way in to a deep appreciation of our body is to remember how fragile our existence is. And how blessed we are that we may be here, practicing yoga together. The vast majority of the people of the world do not have this privilege.
We may consider that many of us know friends or family who have become ill or who have passed away, sometimes very young, or who live daily in extreme danger. Then how blessed we are that we have this opportunity to practice a spiritual path! Furthermore, we ourselves do not know what the next moment will bring, or whether we will even be alive tomorrow. This understanding may bring us directly into the present.
Endings are beautiful like that .. they can create a heightened sense of the present and often we find we live those moments so much more deeply and beautifully.
For each of us, hauling our basket of dreams,
it is only one breath, one breath,
that divides this world, and the next.
What is there to do then but give thanks,
Offer praise and gratitude for the sweetness we’re allotted,
Fling open our burning hearts, and help each other.
May this writing find you well and at peace. Namaste,