Yoga On and Off the Matt
Practicing “Inner Aboveness”
Our consciousness has many levels, ranging from simply being responsive to our environment, to being fully and intuitively aware of things beyond our five senses. As Max Velmans and Susan Schneider wrote in The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness: “Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of our consciousness, making conscious experience at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives.”
Occasionally when I awake, I am surely at the lower end of the consciousness spectrum, mechanically dragging myself through the motions of breakfast and shower. On other days I find myself fully alert and in harmony with my senses and the ethereal world of spiritual awareness. Perhaps this is also true for you?
Janet Center, a dear friend of mine, recently told me that she is practicing “Inner Aboveness”. I really loved this phrase, and she explained that in this practice she seeks to remind herself throughout the day that she is responsible for her state of mind and choosing to perceive the world, to live above the influence of the events of the day. I immediately recognized that I too have these very lucid states of mind wherein I am the observer of myself going through the motions of interacting with every person and every object that I encounter. And it’s a beautiful state of mind to be in – attentive, joyous and peaceful – with experiences passing through me but not making a lot of waves.
Why is this important? It’s not just a sense of blissfulness. I think it is essential for us to reach for this state because in it we become more personally powerful and we no longer have the desire or need to control or have power over others. We no longer live in fear, desperation or helplessness. We no longer act in harmful ways to others or the planet and we make powerful choices to love other and live in harmony with the earth. As Osho says in the preface to his book, Power, Politics and Change: “…Have you ever thought about a living atom of your being and it’s explosion? In other words, we have been calling it enlightenment. It is nothing but an explosion of your being into light. And then suddenly you have a far higher and superior power. It need not fight with the lower; its very presence will make the lower impotent.”
So I asked myself, “When do I lose this state of higher consciousness; where does it go; how do I restore it?” A quote from Deepak Chopra sprang to mind from his Heart Sutra: “Every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle. I let go of grievances and choose miracles.” The term “grievance” means any resentment or judgment against others, situations, institutions or myself. “Miracle” is a term for any and all manifestations of liberation from the bondage of our own thinking and desires: Love…Knowingness…Bliss.
So, the guidance given on this topic, is that any time I am in judgment (e.g, right/wrong, good/bad, or success/failure) of people, events and especially myself – I am not in the miracle! I have left the higher state of consciousness and am reacting to my environment — functioning only with my intellect and emotions. In this state, I am blocked, my higher consciousness is clouded and I my perception is limited to the filters I have placed on it.
How do I restore my “inner aboveness” – my blissful, higher state of consciousness? It wasn’t always so, but now I often find that when I think I am feeling unhappy or angry, I catch myself and remind myself that I do have a choice. I can choose to repeat a mantra or say a prayer; I can meditate; I can ask for guidance or help.
For example, with just six syllables, a mantra like “OM MANI PADME HUM”, (with each syllable as I take a step along the street), I can transform my thoughts into a purer state of consciousness. I let go of the clouded thinking and step into the state of the observer. Or in the morning, on awakening, if I am dull or grouchy, I can choose to say the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” In both of these practices, I am choosing to let go of all grievances, all judgments in favor of acceptance of whatever comes my way and that it is exactly what I am supposed to experience. That is a miracle – a complete transformation of my thinking and being in the world.
If you have made it this far in the text, congratulations! It’s not such an easy topic to explain or to understand. I have found that steadily practicing yoga, meditation and breath techniques are catalysts for inner peace. In all my classes I teach these, and a practice of going within, becoming aware of what you need today and actively seeking it. Being intentional about reaching our higher state of consciousness is critical for our well-being – physically, mentally and spiritually.
Om Shanti, Doug (Narayan)