At holiday time it is very easy to get caught up in the notion that happiness can be created by external things; the right food and drink, the perfect gift, the right people or place. Ultimately, the enjoyment of these things is transitory and we are quickly looking for something new to satisfy our our restless minds.
Spiritual traditions suggest that true happiness can only be found within oneself. What is it that creates this inner joyfulnress?
When the mind is stilled a state of open awareness may be attained where one experiences a profound connection with unbounded consciousness. The state of “Anandam” or spiritual bliss is the goal of yoga.
The yogic spiritual tradition has, over several thousand years, developed techniques of meditation to enable this connection to a trans personal level of consciousness. By consistent practice of these techniques it is possible to grow your own inner happiness.
Hathaway yoga is a great way to prepare the the physical body and subtle energy body for meditation practice. Pranayama, various types of breath control, can be used to balance our energies and calm the mind.
However, one of the most simple and effective tools in achieving deeper meditative stares is Pratyahara; withdrawl of the senses. This practice consists of a series of visualization where the meditator;
- a) Withdraws the attention from external sensory stimuli,
- b) withdraws attention from the physical body, and
- c) withdraws their attention from the random flow of thoughts that usually occupy our awareness.
After the mind has become focussed the the meditator uses repetition of a mantra and subtle visualizations to merge the small sense of self into that state of boundless consciousness. This step is, of course, a very big one which takes practice. However, the deeper and more expansive states of consciousness are natural to human beings. They can occur naturally at different times such as being in nature or through deep interpersonal connections. Western psychology refers to them as peak experiences.
The language for describing them varies from culture to culture, but all spiritual traditions seem to share an understanding of them. Our own contemporary culture lacks a thorough and integrated understanding of spiritual states and the subtler layers of the mind that facilitate them. However, the Yogic spiritual tradition has been studying and mapping these realms for millennia. Take a look at the illustration of the human chakras and subtle energy channels that are found in many yoga studios. They may have fancy illustrations of petalled chakras, intertwining lines of energy and various symbols and Sanskrit letters. These are maps of human consciousness and subtle energy. Knowing the map does not mean that you know the places they describe. To do that you need to head out on a journey. In this case it is an inner journey and one which is uniquely rewarding.
This journey is open to all. The only requisite is a human form and a willingness to start.