Every day has a predictable rhythm to it. In the morning, you wake up and stay awake until bedtime. Then you drift off to sleep and alternate between dreaming and dreamless sleep. Most people never give this a second thought, even though there is a more profound level of experience underlying this cycle. The ancient yogis called this the fourth state of being: deeper than your thoughts, eternal, ever-present and all sustaining. Shankaracharya’s Vivekachudamani describes this:
“You are pure consciousness, clearly manifest as underlying the states of waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep.”
Consciousness, the One Ultimate Realty that manifested everything into existence, is being you. The substratum of your existence is concealed under your waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep. There’s more to you, a level that is always aware. Your awareness is deeper than you usually recognize. Consider, who reports your dreams to you in the morning? A level of your mind may have been in a deep sleep, but your awareness is always aware, and knows.
While this subtle knowing of your Self is most directly accessed in meditation, you are still you, even when you’re not turning your attention inward. Your own existence pervades your every waking moment, as well as your dreams and dreamless sleep. This is the same for a living Guru, but they live in the inner knowing of this. Unlike most of us, who dip in and out, the Guru consciously abides in this fourth state of awareness all the time, while simultaneously enjoying the Divine play of the other three.
I discovered this watching my teacher, Swami Nirmalananda, butter her toast. At the breakfast bar, other yogis were in a hurry to grab their food and move on. But Swami was fully present to what she was doing. It was as if the toast, the knife and butter, the movements of her body and the air around her, had a density to it. As I watched her, it seemed like time stood still. I was pulled in, as if in a trance. It was then I realized that Great Beings may look like us on the outside, but on the inside they are quite different. And as unattainable as it seemed, I want that difference! Not just the understanding of it, but to experience it. This is why I practice yoga.
Only the Guru can awaken you to such a Divine way of living. It is by the Guru’s grace, not my efforts alone, that I am being propelled past my limited sense of time and space, into my capital-S Self. Shaktipat is what initiates this process, “growing you” like a seedling into your fullest potentiality: the knowing of your own Self. I experienced this depth one day in meditation. When the timer went off, I just couldn’t bring myself to open my eyes. Later when I told this to a friend, she asked “Well, why do you need to come out, why would you ever want to leave your Self?”
The truth is, I never want to lose my Self, even though I still do! My mind gets busy, and I forget how it felt to rest in my Self. To submerge myself again, I repeat mantra, while in the midst of my mundane activities and just before I go to sleep. And I think of my Guru. I try to remember her living example of the fourth state, of timeless beingness, as if it were my own. When I do this, I become more present in my own Presence.
These are just a few of yoga’s many tools for spiritual integration. In these small and potent ways, life for me is gradually becoming wholly divine.
OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah
To your Inherent Divinity again and again I bow.