The real purpose of Yoga & Mindfulness
Yoga, mindfulness and the quest for peace.
Want to be permanently happy and peaceful? Then YOGA & MINDFULNESS is for you.
Most of us attend Yoga classes to improve our bodies – to become toned, slimmer, more flexible – or to energise and rejuvenate us.
We go to achieve space and peace in the mind, to feel good, and to learn how to breathe effectively, but lasting permanent happiness, that’s not normally advertised!
The real goal of Yoga is just that though. This final destination is called ‘samadhi’ on the path of yoga, a Sanskrit term which points to the reality, or truth, of the individual soul (the atman) as being one with the Infinite Spirit (Brahman). It is an inner location.
In Yoga & Mindfulness classes it is where we begin.
- The first section of the class is a twenty-minute mindfulness guidance to allow us to locate this place within. The mind (our thoughts, feelings and emotions) settles and becomes still.
- It is an amazing, yet simple process.
- How? We use the sensations of the breath as an anchor for our attention and move inwards. Allowing the sensations of the breath to fill our awareness, we discover an undisturbed well of silence. A quick, effective way is to focus on the nostril area.
- As soon as you stop paying attention to thoughts and feelings, and pay attention to the breath, the mind becomes very peaceful. You don’t need to do anything else. It happens spontaneously.
- Then we look deeply to confirm that within that inner peace is unconquerable, unchanging happiness, characterised by a light flexible feeling. It is happiness coming from within.
- It is available to us all, here and now.
- It is a direct experience and requires no previous training or skill, nor does it require imagination. So, you cannot fail.
- This place within is your very own being, also sometimes called your ‘presence’ or your ‘consciousness’ or ‘awareness’. It does not require a long journey of study and practice, because it is already who you are. This is ‘samadhi’. You find the ‘atman’ or soul, which is one with the universal Spirit, or ‘Brahman’.
- It simply requires that you listen carefully to the guidance, following the pointers, to make this important discovery. It is your real identity because it is deeper than your name, your body, your thoughts and feelings, and is always present.
- The second section of the class is where we shift focus to the body to stretch away any embodied tensions and stress. We move out of our busy minds, and into our bodies. We feel grounded, centred and empowered.
- For around 40 minutes many of the usual hatha yoga poses found in most regular yoga classes are used, but the pace is gentle and always aimed at keeping our attention firmly in the body and rooted in our own presence.
- We stay silent. When the mind wanders, we are pointed back to the body or the breath, to stabilise.
- It becomes obvious that we can transfer this way of being into everyday life. Body and breath are there always, awaiting our single-pointed focus.
- We begin on the floor, moving from Dandasana to Savasana, then into a gentle limber through using the poses of Supta Matsyendrasana (lying down twist), along with gentle bends of the knees and legs. Baddhakonasana (fixed angle pose) is done here sometimes, from the floor, as is Setu bandha – the bridge pose. This latter pose is excellent for stretching and lengthening the spine, for strengthening the knees and toning the thighs.
- The standing poses are those to be found in most classes too: starting with Tadasana, the mountain pose, to ground and centre us, and help improve posture. Then moving into the triangle and warrior poses to help with our inner strength. From there Parsvottanasana to stretch the chest, and downward-facing dog, into dog-head up. Uttanasana, the intense forward stretch is often used, as is Uttkanasana (chair pose).
- The sitting poses are the usual ones too: Janu Sirsasana (head towards knee pose), Paschimottanasana (back stretch), moving into a sitting twist on the floor or the chair (Bharadvajasana). Other poses are also used: the half-moon pose, and the sun and moon salutations.
- The last fifteen minutes is for deep relaxation. Once again, we are reminded of, and guided to, our inner cave of peace and happiness that is always awaiting our attention and awareness. A visualisation is often used here, to facilitate a very deep and intense period of rest, relaxation and a connection to the state of ‘samadhi’ and to your ‘real Self’.
- Through the power of our imagination we visit mountains, beaches, rose gardens or fields of lavender. We take hot-air balloon rides above the clouds. Sometimes we witness sunrises, sunsets and star-studded inky skies reflected in deep, still pools. A profound calm and bliss envelops us and we abide here.
What are the benefits?
I have probably never met you, but I know who you are. You are someone who wants to be happy. Am I right?
Just about everything we do, everything we think about, every day, almost every moment, is about wanting to be happy. ‘I’ll apply for this job, not that one – because I want to be happy. I’ll live in this place, not that one, because I want to be happy’. So it goes on, throughout our life.
Nothing wrong with that, you might say. Yet if we are still seeking happiness then it must mean, logically, that we haven’t found it yet!
The Buddha, one of the most famous yogis of all time, who lived and taught two and half thousand years ago, talked a lot about happiness. All his teachings were about this.
In fact, he made it his life purpose to find an answer as to why we ‘suffer’, as he called it. (Even if we are young and healthy today, living in the very best of conditions, all of us at some point must endure sickness, old age and death). This suffering affects everyone.
It worried the Buddha a lot, and if he were alive today, he would not be content with a shrug of our shoulders and the answer ‘Well, that’s life’.
He did it though – he found the solution as to how to overcome suffering and achieve lasting, permanent peace and happiness. He called it Nirvana and his many teachings are still available for us today.
So, why are most of still unhappy, unfulfilled, restless and looking for happiness in the world? Could it be that we are looking in the wrong place?
So where are we looking for happiness at the moment?
We try to manipulate the externals to make us happy, don’t we?
The problem is that things in our outside world are always changing. That is the way the outer world is. It is in a constant state of flux and instability, and therefore cannot be relied upon to bring us permanent happiness.
Let’s take an example: if you can only be happy if you’re in a relationship with a particular person, then that immediately sets you up for unhappiness and anxiety. What if that person leaves, or gets sick and dies? If we can only be happy if we have a good income, what happens if we lose our job? Fear and worry follow close behind.
We are looking to the unstable for a stable place of peace and happiness – so no wonder our search is not going well!
Even our bodies are changing, day to day. Our minds too. We may have one opinion today, and next week we have a different one. We have different moods too, don’t we? Constantly our emotions change, from one hour to the next sometimes.
We can let it all off the hook as a means to making us happy.
The wonderful fact is that there is a place that is always peaceful, always contented, joyful and happy. This is what Buddha found. Jesus called it the Kingdom of Heaven, five hundred years later. The yogis and rishis of India who wrote the Upanishads, five thousand years ago, called it ‘the Self’ and said it is immortal. These were human beings like us. They found it, so where is it, and is it still possible today for ordinary mortals? The answer is a resounding ‘yes!’
Quite simply, that place resides within you.
We realise through our yoga practice that we can become aware of our very own awareness, which is the source of pure, unconditional happiness. This is what you are seeking. Everyone is.
We are already what we seek. Awareness is the very essence of our life. Without your awareness you would know nothing. Have you ever had an experience you were not aware of? No, that would be impossible. This ‘place’ that we are talking about then is simply the intimate sense of yourself, of what you mean when you say ‘me’, ‘I’ or ‘I am’.
This intimate sense of yourself, your knowing you exist – no one taught you this. You simply know that you exist. You knew this before you knew the name you were given, and before you became aware that you had a worldly identity. This is your soul, and the map for finding this treasure is the timeless gift of Yoga, handed down through the centuries.
The word ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit ‘yuj’ which means to join, to yoke, to unite. It refers, as already mentioned, to the reuniting of our soul to the Infinite Spirit, or the Absolute, or God-Self, or ‘All that is’.
Buddha called it ‘going for refuge’, but he wasn’t referring to a physical place. You will probably know that Mindfulness practice is taken from the Buddha’s teachings, and it is quite simply about becoming aware of your own awareness, sometimes called your ‘presence’, which can only be found in the present moment or ‘the now’. Finding your presence in the present is easy when you know how. It an immensely practical skill to learn.
All of us at this time across the globe are being challenged, whether by the threat and consequences of Covid-19, by racial tension, by political turmoil, or by natural disasters brought about through climate change. No one is exempt. All of us are affected by one or all of these world conditions. All of us are suffering in some way. So, a refuge from all of this is essential. Do you have one?
The truth is that there is an inexhaustible source of happiness no distance from where you are right now, despite your individual circumstances.
It is my delight and pleasure to guide others to this precious space of refuge that lies within, in the sessions that we run in Coastal Suffolk. All the classes are via Zoom now, but the teaching and goal is the same. All are welcome.
Each time our classes begin, and each of us is quiet and still, a door within each one of us opens to this cave of inner treasures. We are home.
Interested? Our next block begins on Friday 24 September at 10 – 11.45 via Zoom, for eight weeks, ending on Friday 12 November. £8 per class if you book for the full term, or £10 for drop-in students. Look forward to working with you. Email or phone for the Zoom link.
More details: 07840 080424/01394 email@example.com
© Debra Woodbridge 2021
www.harnessinghappiness.co.uk. Visit our YouTube channel.