By Swami Prajñananda
In December 2019, I flew to India to take my vows as a swami, a yoga monk. Before I left, I was worried, “What if I get sick?” I didn’t consciously think about it, but it was definitely brewing in my subconscious. In the end, my worries manifested into reality. I got a very sore and swollen throat. It lasted throughout the vows ceremony and the duration of the trip. Surprisingly, it was a blessing in disguise.
Amazingly, I did not mind. I was having such deep experiences. And even more, I finally got it: I am not my body. It was completely freeing. I was able to settle deeper into my own essence which the pain of my body cannot touch. While I could still feel my throat was raw and swollen, I was abiding at a deeper level within. I was experiencing the bliss that is beyond the limitations of my body.
Ever since, I have not been scared of getting sick. I still do my best to take care of my body, but it is not based in fear.
I got sick again a couple of months ago. I got Covid. I got it worse than I thought I would. I went through the gamut of symptoms: fever, chills, body aches, sore throat, congestion. Eventually, I experienced difficulty breathing as well as fatigue. This time, I wasn’t worried about being sick. Even though my body was in bad shape, I didn’t feel “I am my body.” However, I did uncover a different sticky identity, “I am my capacity.”
With Covid, I was laid up for what felt like way too long. I couldn’t teach my classes or support the Ashram with my administrative work. I couldn’t cook or clean. My whole identity of someone who is competent and capable was threatened. I realized that I’ve held the belief that my self-worth comes from what I do.
Since this underlying belief has come into my awareness, I’ve been able to look at it. Gurudevi’s recent teachings has supported me in doing so, especially this excerpt:
Yoga says that you are the perceiver, not what you perceive. Whatever you are seeing or hearing, as well as what you are doing, you are the one who is experiencing it. You are the experiencer, not the experience. You are the doer, not the action or its results. Know who you are, even while you are perceiving and acting, and you are free. This is yoga’s promise. – Gurudevi Nirmalananda, Perception & Action, September 2022
Yes! This makes so much sense to me. I perceive my body, so I must not be my body. I perceive my mind, so I must not be my mind. And oh yes! I perceive my capacity to act, so I must not be my capacity. I am the perceiver, not what I perceive. I am Shiva. I am the One Divine Reality that is being my body, mind and capacity in order to participate in this world. My participation does not make me more or less of who I am. I am the One who is being me and being all and beyond all.
This knowing is completely freeing while at the same time profoundly grounding. Without the knowing, you are lost in limitation. But when you know, you can fully embody individuality without being limited by it at all. The knowing is the key, the key to your own freedom. Yoga gives you the key. So if you are not yet free, you must do more yoga.