The teaching of yoga is a teaching of harmony, unity and ultimately realisation of our true nature.
The practice of Yoga Asana (exercise) is a good practice which leads to physical well-being. But as a teacher I am aware some students need more than the experience of physical fitness but want to find that relaxation and aliveness they feel in their asana practice in ordinary life. And it is possible. The secret is so simple, you can connect with your awareness by focussing your attention on your breath, watching its miraculous flow until you feel it drawing your attention to the peace and silence of your heart where you are fully awake and alive – not just feeling awake on your yoga mat but living Yoga.
Practise sitting in the Emptiness of Your Heart
First of all sit and make yourself very comfortable, either on the floor or in a chair. Now be aware there is a room in the heart in the deepest part of the heart where there is awareness, consciousness and where the mind cannot enter. Listen to your breath and allow your breath to take you into this room but leave behind you all your baggage – everything that you believe you are has to stay outside. The room is too small for all of that. Give yourself time to let go of what you know, your identity, your past and history. Now just sit there in the silence of your own heart – gently breathing. Is it possible to stay there in this room – with nothing there but you? Remember the mind is not you. You are other than that. The mind is important it can be a good servant to the Ego but don’t be distracted by its endless thoughts. Sit in that room just watching what arises in that space - being that empty space from where a feeling of love can emerge? It does not happen immediately, just sit without waiting and expectation. Continue feeling yourself empty – simply existing in the emptiness within your heart, if the mind gives you trouble stay listening to your breath.
You are now sitting fully awake in the silence and stillness in this room deep within your heart. Perhaps a feeling of love has emerged and you are now experiencing that feeling of love. You have now come home – to yourself – it is a waking meditation. From here you can be. Sitting in this relaxed natural state of being you can be with others fully present to yourself and to them – I cannot think of a better gift to give to life, to those we love, than being present.
Breath Awareness in Simple Activities
You can now try bringing this stillness, this breath awareness into different activities, for there is no activity which cannot benefit from this practice of listening to the breath.
Walking in a beautiful landscape is perhaps easiest. Taking the breath down through your feet to Earth “kissing Earth with the soles of your feet” to paraphrase the eminent Vietnamese Buddhist Month Thich Nhat Hanh and then feel it arise again through your body in it’s journey to the heart back to that little room of silence and deep connectivity. Look around you and witness the wonder of nature – feel its living presence – allow yourself to be part of it.
Cooking is good - especially if you are like me – always cooking in haste – just trying to get it done without enjoying the process of preparing, chopping and getting it onto the plate as quickly as possible. So stay awhile with breath awareness and see if you can find in you a deep gratitude to Earth for the food you will eat and a deep gratitude for those who have helped bring it to you.
Caring for Others - children, relative or friend is another opportunity to find a loving connection when you are brought back to the awareness of your breath. Watching our breath is a sensitive barometer to tell us when we have lost touch with our true Self and have lost touch with others. Caring with this awareness can then be a selfless loving experience – we are nourishing ourselves as well as being nourished when we experience we are the other.
In the Office - perhaps the most demanding challenging environment, often seen as soulless. But it need not be if you take your soul with you. Wait a moment before you open the door and become swallowed up in the demands of your work. Reconnect to your breath, feel your feet on the ground and empty your mind of any negative thoughts you may have concerning your work, your colleagues, your boss. Just eject it, just for the moment, as you would a CD/DVD. You can insert the mind later when you need it. Imagine doing this. Remember technology is not you, your work is not you, it is something youdo. You are not your identities. Now suspending judgement or criticism stay in the quietness of your heart, looking out from behind your eyes – there is an invitation here, TO BE YOUR SELF, present in the mundane world of work, don’t ignore it. Now cross the threshold, breathe, and don’t leave your Soul behind. When you forget yourself, just return to your breath again and again.
The Universality of Breath
Nearly all spiritual traditions place great emphasis on listening to the breath including teachings of contemporary spirituality. For you see the mind cannot take us away from the truth of our real nature when we are engaged in listening to the breath, the breath of life. We breath with the soul of Earth and all of Creation, our consciousness expands . There is a taste of freedom, timelessness and love waiting to be experienced that always was and is – a simplicity of being where everything in existence just is. Perhaps from the awareness of our true nature, which is a vast dynamic emptiness, pure being, we can respond authentically to life from a place of consciousness in harmony with the spirit of the time and in harmony with the spirit of the depths of our being. From here we can creatively respond to our life, the crises of our time and bring love to our fractured world.