Bathed in Love

Bathed in Love

 

“ You cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought”

…But how can you help it?

I have evil thoughts, do you? Do you ever catch yourself thinking the most appalling, cruel, heartless, mean, reprehensible, uncharitable , awful thoughts? About others, or about yourself.

 Photography by Christian Houge

Photography by Christian Houge

Then you hear yourself and try to change those thoughts. You do your best to chase away the ugly, critical mind. You tell yourself she/he cant help it , or this is where I'm at right now, so it's okay..,perhaps you quickly mutter a few positive affirmations to cancel- clear -delete the harsh thoughts. To convince yourself that everything is sunny and great.

If our truest nature is one of loving kindness, why the struggle to maintain that state?

Practicing yoga of any kind is supposed to help us rid our minds of useless chatter. To give us a point of focus and clear the mind. To achieve that peace that reveals the truth of oneness and dispels the myth of separation. Unification with our Higher selves. But in its modern iteration of asana practice, most often without meditation or spiritual guidance, is this ever really happening? Do uncharitable, self-deprecating thoughts plague us even as we diligently practice?

Let’s look to what we are truly seeking through the practice of yoga. Are we in fact setting the stage for a spiritual awakening through a physical practice? Or are we using the practice as a trendy social event? To meet others, or to compete with and judge ourselves and others, jealous of abilities we do not possess. Or do we just want to look good in our jeans?

As a teacher it’s sometimes hard not to succumb to the modern student’s desire for a “hard” class. A physically challenging “workout”. A thoughtful and thought provoking well-structured class centered around a theme may not produce a sweaty result and can seem less attractive. Those hard sweaty classes are exhilarating and often better attended than careful mindful examinations of form and alignment. And then there's a lot to be said for exhileration! Some of us are exhileration junkies, addicted to that post practice high and sometimes wondering why we are injured again and again, and again.

Nevertheless, it is all Yoga. Those students wanting the tough class may need the distraction that physical exertion provides in order to quiet that chatty mind. They may need to connect into that rythym. They may not in fact be up for the honest confrontation of a deeper probing into their own barriers and limitations. Slow and detailed work is not for the faint of heart. It sometimes takes the wringing out of the body to reach a point of exhaustion in order to achieve any level of stillness in which to meditate, to find the neutral mind. This can happen in either type of practice.

In our popular class structure we have limited time and ample pressure to please, to deliver to the studio numbers and money and popularity, and to the students the ego boost of having acquired enough stamina and skill to participate in a challenging class. Most often the reward of asana practice, meant to be the ability to sit and to reflect deeply, is forgone in favor of our busy urban lifestyle. At the end of an hour and a half of asana practice with maybe a five minute savasana, and a one minute meditation, your meter has expired and the next class is chomping at the bit to get in.

 Photography by Steve McCurry

Photography by Steve McCurry

How do we find balance?

Jealousy, self-criticism, and judgement are actions of the ego, or Negative Mind. Negative Mind, however maligned, is a necessary thing. It is the ego which evaluates and tells us when there is danger of some kind. But it is also often a liar. It is relentlessly influenced by the subconscious ( what you’ve learned from your past experiences , family upbringing and culture) and therefore must be tamed. It is ego that tells you that the student next to you achieving that handstand so effortlessly is no better than you and you will beat him by this summer. It also may say that everyone in this class is way better than you and you have no business being here, depending on what your underlying subconscious idea of yourself is. Either way, it’s trying to protect you.  It’s survival of the fittest. We all have this. It’s just part of being alive in a body. 

We also have Positive Mind, the part that encourages you and tells you you can do it. The part that seeks joy and fulfillment and expansion. But these can be hard to access when Negative Mind won’t shut up.

The process of meditation is to bypass the ego and the Positve Mind and seek neutrality. Neutral Mind is the observer without judgement or attachment. It is what we seek when we sit. Prospective. Truth and Peace.

The truth is that we are all connected. The truth is that everyone in your life is teaching you something about yourself. The truth is that we are loving beyond description and are interconnected molecules of God.

Yep.

Many of us easily see the wrong in any given situation. We constantly struggle with our powerful negative mind. It thinks we should be better, smarter, richer, more accomplished, more beautiful. But once or twice in my own life I have been given a glimpse of what is beyond all of that chatter. Beyond all of my pursuits in this body. All my ambitions, and judgements, and even time.

I suppose I was given these brief glimpses so that I would continue in this life, because without them I could have become much more bitter and closed to possibility. But I have seen, and even in the midst of my inner turmoil, I do know the truth of what I am.

I am. Limitless. I am. A powerful force of love. I am inextricably linked with The Divine. Have you met me? Bet you couldn’t tell!

 Photography by Steve McCurry

Photography by Steve McCurry

It happened first like this:

 My mother died suddenly when I was a child. I was ten when she died of an allergic reaction to penicillin. I remember going to the funeral home to view her body, and having the distinct feeling that she was no longer there. That that body in the coffin no longer had anything to do with her. And that death was not real. She still spoke to me in dreams. She told me that she wasn’t dead. 

At that point, at ten years old, I could no longer accept the belief I had been taught , in a Christian family, of what happens to our souls after death. I could no longer accept the notion of heaven and hell, or that a loving God would so punish any soul by banishing them to eternal damnation. I also knew that my mother’s soul was not really separated from me, that she wasn’t gone. This event marked the beginning of my spiritual searching. I became interested in spirituality, meditation, Theosophy, Soul travel, and astral travel and all manner of Eastern philosophy. I became more open to metaphysical experiences. In my child’s mind leaving my body and flying about was the most wonderful sounding thing and I spent many hours trying to achieve that. I never did. Not voluntarily anyway. I did have spontaneous out of body experiences and flying dreams. But life went on. I grew up, and eventually moved to New York to pursue my dreams.

One day I attended a workshop given by a “channel”, someone who is able to communicate with beings who are not incarnate at this time. Many channels communicate with the dead as well as beings who do not incarnate in human form at all. It was the mid- eighties and I’d met some people who were selling crystals who gave me a flyer for a workshop called “Manifesting Prosperity”. It led to an experience I have never forgotten, nor has it ever been repeated. 

 Photography by Ron Haviv

Photography by Ron Haviv

The workshop ended up being more about the channel herself and her many spirit guides. Then at one point in the evening she instructed us to close our eyes and talked us through a chakra meditation where we visualized each chakra and energized it, starting from the root chakra moving up to the top of the head. When when we reached our crown she asked us to turn around three times in our minds eye and told us that on the third turn we would see the face of our guide.

Before I could even complete the third turn I was flooded with bright golden light. As I was confronted with this brilliant energy I suddenly knew love like I’d never known before. Even though it had no face I knew it was smiling into me and that I was it’s Precious. Im unable to describe the immensity of it. I was in the overwhelming presence of a love so great, so huge, that I was catapulted out of my body. And then I could see. It was a great ball of light. White and Gold, and I was beside it. I was no longer in human form, but was a gigantic ball of light myself,  mine a deep blue. At all times I was aware of my body. I could see the room. I could see the instructor, and saw that she had come over to my body, which was crying softly seated in a chair, and she was standing behind me doing something like Reiki around my head. As I viewed my body I felt no attachment to it. I felt zero attachment to my life or any of my so called desires. My only wish was to remain with that golden being forever and to bask in the love and wholeness I was feeling. I would have been more than happy to die then, and leave Bahni behind forever. Then the being spoke into me and said that I had to go back. I made myself small, about the size of a basketball, and hovered beside my head. Then I shifted back in.

The experience took many years to process. The immediate effect was that I felt all my chakras were blown open. I was walking on air. I immediately fell in love with some guy( which lead to later heartbreak and shutdown). 

Later I had a private session with the woman who lead the class. Up until then I’d justified the experience as having met an angel, or my mother, but she told me I had met my Higher Self. It was at least ten years before I could grasp that.

So I have shared this experience in order to let you know, if you don’t already, that this is what we really are.

My God! We are Magnificent! Your belief that you are not good is a lie. Your belief in limits is a lie and has been created in order for you to learn something through your experience. There is that in you which is whole and loving and perfect,and can never be damaged. We are the multiple incarnations of Divine energy. If you are struggling with self-judgement, know that it is an illusion. This world is just a little playground, a sandbox! If you are lonely please know that separation is an illusion and that there exists for you a love beyond your wildest imaginings! Try, even if you can’t picture it, even in the depths of your sorrow, to let that truth sink in. It’s enough to see you through.

My attempts at contacting that energy again have not been fruitful. Not in the same way. Although once when I was actively seeking it I was lead to a past life experience, and many years later through another meditation class, where I was constantly judging myself and comparing my experiences to others and finding them lacking, I found a practice that lead to another profound experience of the inner world. I was then teaching asana at the crack of dawn and it was my practice to get up and meditate around 4 am. In class we had been given “healing guides”  and were told to go out and have experiences with these guides, get to know them, indulge in their favorite foods, ask them for small favors in order to empower them etc. I wasn’t feeling any of it and others were having all manner of palpable experiences and seeing and connecting the guides. My experiences weren’t clear. I wasn’t sure if I wasn’t just imagining things. I remember telling one of the teachers that I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t working for me. I wasn’t psychic enough. And her response was, “That’s a lie”.

Then one early morning, alone in the dark, my guide undeniably touched me. I felt it physically as she accessed my body, then she placed a big white star above my head. I know now that this was the opening of my eighth chakra. It looked like a multi pointed revolving star. 

 Photography by Virginia Mak

Photography by Virginia Mak

My point is, these are not special experiences that only happen to me. I am no more phenomenal or psychic than any one of you. This is what we truly are. That inner world is magnificent, and it’s where the path of Yoga is meant to lead. It is the truth.

 So yes, if it’s what brings you to the mat, go sweat it out in unbelievably hard asana classes. Rush out and move your car after, if you must. Get a juice, meet your friends, pursue your little sandbox dreams. But carve out a little time to seek the truth. You must cultivate the Neutral Mind because if you don’t Negative and even Positive Mind can grow like weeds that obliterate your beautiful garden of True Being. Whenever you can, regularly if you can, be quiet, get still and explore the inner landscape. There you will find renewal, and sustenance. You may even meet yourself, bathed in the vast glory of love.

 Photography by Drew Tal

Photography by Drew Tal


Bathed in Love by Bahni Turpin


Cover Photography by Steve McCurry