So I’m back in yoga class for the second time. Colin is explaining meditation. We are to imagine we are sitting at the bottom of a lake. Every time a thought comes to us, we are to breathe it out like an air bubble and watch it rise to the surface, I assume until there are no more bubbles left.
But I’m a little confused. “Why are we trying to get rid of the good thoughts?” I ask.
“We’re not trying to get rid of them,” Colin answers.
Okay, well that clarifies things. I make a frowny face to convey my confusion.
Colin explains further (and I paraphrase), “We’re becoming aware of our thoughts without taking a preference. You know this, but everything you love will die. We need to be able to be in a state of consciousness to be able to have any type of internal peace.”
Ugh, I think. It’s so true and so awful. I wish I could hold onto things without them floating away. It is much easier to wallow over the fact I can’t do that, then to learn how to cope. I really want to get this. I know I missed almost the whole semester, but if I don’t get anything out of this class, I will be so disappointed.
Yoga master Erich Schiffmann explains it this way: “As you move into the depths of stillness, subtle and powerful changes will become apparent in your life. These will be both profound and entirely welcome. You will become familiar with the creative God Force inside you, the energy at your core. The world will look more beautiful because you’re seeing it as it is, without the distorting influence of your conditioning” (4).
I am trying to find Christ in the space between my thought bubbles, but I think I’m trying to find him in the wrong way. I want to converse with Him. I want Him to speak to me…in “abstract” thoughts. I think Yoga is more about “feeling” Him, knowing intuitively that He is alive without seeking evidence of that through a response or form of communication from Him.
“So if you think of the concept of ‘I have a thought’ then you need to realize there are two entities: there is the ‘I’ and there is the ‘thought,’” Colin summarizes. “What we’re trying to do is see life from the point of view of the ‘I’, separate from the thought. We are not our thoughts. And when you start to look at things that way, it will likely turn your whole concept of identity upside down.”
I’d say. At the beginning of the semester Colin asked us to muse on the question, “Who am I? Or what am I?” Of course, I wouldn’t know because I wasn’t there, but it’s an interesting question that I have spent the last three days thinking about anyway.
“You might not have time for an existential crisis in your life right now,” Colin continues. “But it’s the best existential crisis. You’re much bigger than you think you are.”
Perhaps a better question for me would be who am I if I’m not my existential crisis?
I’m of course, being melodramatic right now, but what would happen if I quit trying to define myself – or undefine myself. I am not my anxiety, my past experiences or my suffering – it’s a pleasant and awful thought. I am nothing (nothing that I thought I was anyway). Just like everyone else is nothing. And I also just am, which means I am something – which is more than I’ve sometimes been. The idea makes my head hurt. Holy hell, this class is worse than French lit. Excuse me while I take a break and read some Sartre for a while.
Schiffmann offers an intellectual analysis: “Here is our situation: We are ignorant of our true nature, our real identity. We don’t know who we really are…Instead we accepted as true what other people told us about ourselves. And unfortunately, we were taught by people, who, in all likelihood, and through no fault of their own, did not actually know” (5).
This observation is a bit depressing.
Maybe I’ll just breathe. I’ll breathe that loud, obnoxious breathing I used to laugh at my mom for doing. There’s something soothing about the sound of your breath. There’s something that makes it all make sense when you breathe out loud. It’s like asking God a question and waiting in the silence for a response – sometimes there’s just silence; and sometimes there’s a response. I don’t understand everything in the catechism – it’s all too confusing and contradictory, but I understand having a conversation with God. I don’t understand how to push out all the thoughts from my mind or float them around in bubbles, but I do understand how to breathe. Maybe I can pray for God to remove the thoughts from my brain and bring me to a place of consciousness – likely it will take longer than three weeks. I will have a lot of time to breathe, but I have a profound motivation to try:
“The more familiar you are with the creative God Force in you, the more you will see It and recognize It in others” (31).