Yoga is ultimately a set of techniques designed to support introspection. The yogis recognized the mind moves in two directions, internal and external. The internal was named Anu which means atom. The external was named Vibhu which means cosmos. The human mind bounces back and forth between these two. The inability to sense the internal direction leads to disorientation and eventually a form of ignorance named Avidya. Avidya is ignorance of the true self. Its the feeling of not knowing who you are.
The human condition is defined by this back and forth between internal and external. Peace is achieved by learning to develop a skillful balance between the two. Since our culture and the advent of technology has encouraged externalization and distraction most fail to realize the significance or even perhaps the existence of the internal direction. Searching for ourselves solely through what we do and possess versus what we are and know has led to a culture of addiction, alienation, and depression. These issues may not exist in your life but studies prove these are cultural concerns.
Now that we know there is an internal and external direction the next question is what exists at the most distant ends of each and what exists between them? The philosophies harbor answers. Atman is the individual soul. This soul, which is difficult to grasp for many, exists at the "end" of the internal direction. At the other end of life, there is Bhraman. Bhraman is the experience of reality as one "thing". Anu is connected to Atman meaning your soul is inside the atom that you are, tiny, small, and powerful. Vibhu leads to Bhraman, meaning your senses open outwardly towards something infinite, cosmic, and unified. Between them are the many layers of personal experience. Like the sediment of the earth, our environment is at the surface and is stacked on top of our routines, possessions, social groups, reputation, close relationships, body, desires, emotions, memories, and intuitions. Our effort whether we practice yoga or not is to bring harmony to these interacting layers.
Yoga pushes a particular approach to achieve this harmony. To harmonize the many layers of personal existence, a complicated endeavor, it is most effective to internalize completely. Yoga's method can be summed up in three words, let life go. This demands trust. As one internalizes themselves their mind becomes more focused and more sensitive. This creates clarity. Instead of juggling all the responsibilities of life the mind becomes only aware of its own existence within the body. Everything else is abandoned. At this point, the drama of deciding our lives, which is not bad but both good and bad, dissolves. What comes up once the mind stops reaching for what it wants and resisting what it doesn't is a pervasive stillness and peace.
While these ideas are beautiful they lack instruction. What we usually read in modern and ancient spiritual books of guidance are descriptions of the consequences of the practice. The books narrate the peace, compassion, forgiveness, strength, etc but rarely instruct the reader on how to exactly change themselves outside of simply contemplating the philosophies or emotional consequences. It's like throwing seeds on the ground, waiting for rain, and hoping for growth. There is a physical process of opening the body to the mind that is necessary before one can plant the seeds of emotional growth. Unfortunately, this takes more time but that is the reality.
What is the literal process? Feel your body. You'll find it is blissful to have a body. In particular, yoga teaches us to appreciate the subtle sensation of the body. The body is a collection of systems. Respiratory, circulatory, nervous, limbic, endocrine, skeletal, muscular. The body is also biological, chemical, physical, and atomic. The point being, these systems are constantly moving. Yoga helps us feel this movement. The atomic buzz, the flow of blood, the respiration of tissue, the lightning storm of nerves. This subtle movement is pleasurable. The sharper the mind the more pronounced this subtle pleasure becomes. The yogis named this subtle pleasure Sukshma, subtle bliss. When you think of a Buddha sitting in a lotus posture, legs crisscrossed, fingers pressing into thumbs, and a face in peace he is experiencing a physical and literal bliss. That physical bliss is what calms the mind not the other way around.
Sukshma, the subtle sensations of movement in the body, is how the yogis dive into Anu. The yogi sinks into physical pleasure the way a free diver surrenders to the depths of the ocean. Keep feeling these tingles and there will come a point where you'll notice in hindsight an inner quiet.
This is how you would get to Atman, the quiet soul. From Atman one looks out towards life and the world and sees Bhraman, realizing through epiphanythat life is wondrous, perfect, and complete. It is one awe-inspiring thing experienced in infinite ways through infinite moments. The point of trekking into the self towards Atman is to remember that despite it all you are and always have been deeply in love with life.
Yoga is not easy but the obstacles in practice are of your own creation. Your ego will immediately say otherwise but it is wrong. The challenges of internalizing the self are many. There is fear. Fear of pain. Fear of wasting time. Fear that you are unable and perhaps even unworthy. Often there is boredom, which comes from a lack of knowing what to do or an inability to feel Sukshma (subtle bliss). Along the way inside, one begins to encounter their core thoughts and beliefs. Some are beautiful and inspiring. Others are shameful and remind us of our imbalances. The strong-willed are motivated by their shame or hurt to keep going, understanding that stillness is the antidote to those detrimental responses and beliefs. The frail need more support and often retreat from their own shadows. You do not need to look away! When those feelings of boredom, impatience, or fear arise, return to subtle sensations. Feel your body vibrating. In that forcefield of subtle pleasure, you can appreciate the aggravation, apathy, or boredom as part of the process. The more intense the negative responses in practice the better. As long as you endure. It is a fever burning away the virus.
The hero's journey is the path least traveled. This path leads to the truth of individual destiny. All of these poetic phrases are symbolic propaganda telling the seeker to internalize their mind. In between a soul and a universe there is the life you live every day and the world you live within yet hardly know. Life is mysterious. Time collides with space to create a canvas of adventure for a Self, such as yourself, to live. To eradicate the friction, to beautify the expression, to enjoy the process in real-time commit to Atman. Devote yourself to authenticity by literally feeling a tingle in your skin. Let that tingle grow into a tapestry of tickling vibrations and sink into those tickles the way you'd sink into a hot bath. Stay there enjoying the secret layers of your body and the mind will relax. Once relaxed, then make the intention of forgiveness, strength, peace, or happiness but only after the mind and body have bonded. The Self is the unified body-mind. The Self at that point remembers whatever it is it needs to remember. Only you know such things. If done properly you will immediately recognize that forgiveness, for example, is already within you.
Slowly, a yogi would recognize every emotion, every weakness, every strength exists within them. At that point the greatest revelation of all bursts forth. Ahambhramasmi. I am Bhraman. Atman, the internal soul, and Bhraman, the external world, are the same thing. The line that Anu, the internal, and Vibhu, the external, create is actually a circle. Trek into the internal to feel the beauty of the world or go out into nature and find the beauty of the self. All paths lead to the same understanding of unity and togertherness. You've learned so much already and its brought you to read this essay. Now, hopefully, you've learned a bit more to support the agenda of well-being.
Instructions to practice:
Do this for 20 minutes daily for two weeks.
1) Sit down in a comfortable position with a tall spine.
2) Breath slowly
3) Feel your fingertips tingling (Sukshma)
4) Actively label that tingling as pleasure
4) Feel whole body tingling and let life go
5) After 15 minutes continuously feel one virtue
(power, gratitude, forgiveness) for 5 minutes