The one time in our lives that we realise how absolutely mortal we are and how impersonal life can be is when we go through deep trauma, like someone we love passing away, or grave illness. Normally at this point, somewhere inside our natural egoic self can’t quite believe that the world didn’t pause; to reflect the enormity of what’s happening to us. Sometimes when we get dealt the rough hand in life, exposed to experiences that aren’t ones we would choose, aren’t we inclined to question ‘why us’? Why can’t this bad stuff just happen to someone else?
How it is that life just continues even when entire countries and continents go through upheaval? Whilst one community focuses on crisis, another will focus on trivia. How have we become so impasse about the suffering of others?
However difficult life experiences like that can be, there are, as always, valuable lessons available to learn.
How do we begin to see life, not as this specific experience tailor made to us (as we’d probably like to think), but as an intrinsic part of something quite astonishing, magical and magnificent? How do we zoom out of our own experience, even when it’s something so terrible it’s all consuming?
This is where Eastern philosophy offers quite a different perspective to ours in the west.
The basis of Buddhism is a belief system known as the four noble truths, a fundamental philosophy taught by the Buddha. In brief the four stages or truths are that; firstly suffering and misery exist in life – we cannot escape that. Secondly, suffering is caused by personal desire in one form or another – even if it’s just not to suffer! The third noble truth is that we can overcome this craving and desire. And finally the fourth truth is to find Nirvana (‘bliss’ or ‘enlightenment’) we can follow the eightfold path. This involves the ‘right’ way to view, speak, act, work, concentrate, apply effort and intend.
So by that view point we can say simply; Life happens. Life doesn’t decide what each individual will go through; Rather just we get caught up in this enormously complex and moving ocean of events, experiences, souls and time colliding.
Never before do we seem quite so small. When we really stop to think about it, aren’t we just a spec on a spec on the grand scheme of things? So why do we get so caught up in ‘personalising’ life as if we are the only ones in the picture?
Our tendency as human beings is to try to apply an illusion of self-importance. We allow our minds to dictate who we have decided we will be, creating stories that contain all we need to stay fixated on this living movie, with us as the central character – emotions, opinions, rules, memories and imaginings, all to do with us. Yogic philosophy teaches us that in face, our ego is perhaps our biggest obstacle in reaching our highest potential, and spiritual enlightenment, for it’s our ego that continues to persuade us that the material world is the only thing that matters. One of the hardest things to do is let go of the notion that we need to be ‘somebody’. Another is to let go of attachment. To let go of the fact that we are defined by all those mind dictated beliefs about what our purpose is and what our true objectives in this life are.
So the magic of this philosophy is this;
What if, instead of this being that you decided you will be, wearing all the experiences you have had that define you, you were able to tap into the ‘you’ that is the very consciousness behind your physical, mental and emotional self? The ‘soul’ of you. Would the soul of you be concerned that you knocked your car, or that you’re running late to a meeting, or would prefer to be half a stone lighter, or had pretty shoes? Ask yourself what your soul wants and needs for you to be truly at peace.
A lovely analogy is this: Like the rainbow that comes from the crystal in the sunlight, it’s easy to focus on the beautiful colours that are projected on the wall. Our nature means we tend to spend our lives looking at those beautiful colours. To truly understand what it is to cultivate and connect to inner peace, we need to begin to understand that the rainbow doesn’t come from the wall and so it’s not the wall we should be looking at. It’s not even the crystal that the rainbow comes from. Instead it is the sun that is the true source of the light and where the magic is happening. When we look beyond our material world and what’s in front of us (the wall), going deeper than that into our minds (the crystal), we can begin to strip away the layers of the self and connect to our wholeness (the sun). When we look around, we see that sun is the source of everything.
Once we begin to put less importance on this material life and the ego of being the centre of everything, we’re able to let go of all the things that usually bring about our suffering. Of course we carry on with our usual duties like family, work etc, but we are more aware of where our attention is, and what we’re giving ourselves and our energy to. Putting life into the perspective as if you were like an astronaut looking down on our planet, or even if you were looking back in 10 years time at a situation, would it truly matter?
Bypassing all the noise and chaos, but at the very least acknowledging that it’s there, enables us to listen to and connect to our inner peace more often.
Recognising the distractions all around us, mostly dictated by our own minds are what keeps us from true peace and the knowledge that we are indeed the sun, the rainbow and the light all in one.
It is the true work of a yogi to rest in the ocean of consciousness in the midst of all the noise, and to then even see the noise as consciousness itself.
To learn more about yogic philosophy and gain deeper knowledge in how to bring contentment into your life, try attending a few yoga classes with us here at the Mary Ann Weeks Aveda studio in Guildford. Our wonderful yoga (and pilates!) teachers are dedicated to helping you find a practice to suit your own body and give you the tools to connect inwards to your centre. Meditation features in every class during the relaxation section at the end. There are so many elements and depths to yoga but even if you just want a good stretch we provide that too! Change your life for the better by moving your body, connecting to your breath and calming your mind.
To book yourself into a class visit our studio timetables page and see which class might suit your needs – there are plenty of classes to suit all levels.