When I first found my devotional practice, I have to admit I yearned to be enlightened. For me that was the ultimate goal. The Sutras speak of the Siddhis and benevolence that is obtained by the enlightened and I wanted it so deeply. Ever fiber of my being wanted to know what the great sages know and become untangled from the intensity of day to day life.
When I asked one of my teachers how to become enlightened, he replied,”Enlightenment is like a joke, it’s like a fish looking for water….We are all one, so really, when you think about it, either we are all enlightened or none of us are enlightened.” I sat with knowledge for a long time, understanding it, without knowing how to incorporate it into my life.
As the seasons started to change, I let my practice slip away along with my ideas of enlightenment. Now that I have come back to my practice with new breath, I see that my goals have shifted. Enlightenment is not what draws me back to my practice day after day, I don’t take my breathes with the hope of finding nirvana in the apex. So if enlightenment is not the goal what brings me back?
Well, today when I came to my meditation practice, anticipating my feelings of boredom and reluctancy which often appear halfway through, I recalled Iyengar’s words in Light on Life about how enlightenment is not the goal of yoga. I prepared to lie down for Sivasana and decided just enjoy my time with myself, regardless of whether or not I would enter into deep meditation. As I made myself comfortable on the ground, my awareness went to the sounds around me. At first, I could hear everything clearly and suddenly the noises began to fade until I was no longer present to the happenings around me. I had slipped back into united consciousness. I opened my eyes and realized my efforts and wantings were the very thing that had been standing between myself and my Self. That this practice is indead a practice. It is a practice that yields great rewards, but the rewards are often unanticipated. In the sutras, they say the fruit of yoga sewn from the devotional heart is freedom, and ultimately love. And that is what brings me back. It is the thread that stitches my temperament, fears, and worries into compassion, understanding, and lightheartedness. It is the sweetness between the inhale and the exhale, and those fleeting moments of clarity and truth scattered throughout my day.
My teacher often says, “Let go of all you efforts.” It took my about one hundred times of hearing that before I could, but I suppose that is why they call it a practice.