“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun. I will touch a hundred flowers, and not pick one!” — Edna St. Vincent Millay
To look out upon a field of flowers, to smell or touch their delicate beauty, without the desire to pick even one, is a state worth aspiring to. To be experiencing the bliss of Beingness, while experiencing the world, so you don’t need to grab at the things around you.
Even when you forget your inherent Divinity, you have always been Divine. While you are a bound soul, yet you have infinite capacity for freedom and joy. Yoga says you have to learn how to stay involved, genuinely caring for others and enjoying the things of life without depending on them for your sense of self. It’s not easy.
Your “small-s” self gets entangled in your senses, making your sense of personal worth ride on the outcome. It comes down to how you use your mind. It can either be an instrument of pure perception or a sticky Velcro strip, attaching to what you experience, need or want. Yoga sets you free.
“Your mind becomes free from all desires, for externals, and for things promised in the scriptures, giving a state of complete freedom and joy.” — Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.15 (rendered by Swami Nirmalananda)
To realize yoga’s promise for yourself, you have to work on yourself. Built into every desire is a dependency. Every desire props up a personal identity. If you don’t fulfill that desire, you feel like you’re going to die! That’s because your identity depends on that thing for its very existence.
Each of your many identities is part of creating your sense of meaning and purpose in life. This is a shaky platform, indeed. When your propping gets knocked out from under you, which life guarantees will happen, who will you be?
You are more than your current identity; you are more than all your identities put together. You cultivate these many identities because, at the root, you’ve forgotten that you are God. The ancient sages called this spiritual amnesia, “avidyaa”, the not knowing of your own Divinity. I know it well: the indefinable angst that haunted me all my life, until I found my inner Self.
Last month I got entangled in a family drama. My siblings and I were grieving the death of our mother, so there were the predictable irrational flare-ups. Each of us wanting our own way, defending our superficial identities. In frustration, there were moments I wanted to withdraw, to “detach.” You know how that looks. You throw up your hands, and say,” I’m done” or, “I’ve had it” or, “I’m out of here!” But the truth is, yogis don’t bolt. Nor can they rest on their “spiritual” laurels. Thus, any discomfort becomes an opportunity for inner clearing and growth.
I could see that, having been my mother’s primary caregiver, I was now reluctant to share the responsibility with my siblings. My desire “to serve” wasn’t as selfless as I’d thought. I was surprised to find how dependent I’d become on the identity of the self-sacrificing daughter, capable of doing everything. In the moment I became aware of this identity, one of the kleshas, something shifted inside. I was able to let go. My breath opened up and the energy starting flowing again. Grace swooped in and freed me. I could interact with my family lovingly, without being limited by the old stories and my shaky identities.
How do you base yourself in Self? Moving past your most cherished delusions to the light of consciousness requires an intervention — the cosmic force of Grace, revealing your Divinity again. Relying on common sense won’t do it. You know this because you’ve tried, many times before!
“Your mind becomes free from all desires, for externals, and for things promised in the scriptures, giving a state of complete freedom and joy.”
When you abide in such complete freedom and joy, you can participate in what life has to offer without needing it to fulfill you. The sutra promises that you won’t even cling to the desired results of your spiritual practices! You could pour yourself into your yoga, without even the need to become enlightened. Imagine repeating mantra for the pure devotion of it, not so you’ll be happier or calmer, or so that your life will improve (although it will). Imagine, being the gladdest thing under the sun! You will touch a hundred flowers, and no longer need to pick one.