This last week I had the good fortune of visiting a yoga retreat in Bangalore called Shreyas. It was a short break from a month that had begun to look like a typhoon had swept me up and smashed all semblence of peace in my daily existence. My mind whirled with work and home issues, to-do lists, pressures of urban living, chores left undone… And then suddenly, I was on a flight to a silent nature resort for 50 hours. It was like an unlikely full-stop in the middle of a garbled sentence.
Besides learning yoga asanas at dawn in a manmade forest; having my limbs stretched out by an expert guide whose name Ramakant means ‘beloved of (Lord) Rama’; being pampered with a loving massage by a gentlewoman named Vidya (‘knowledge’); eating wholesome saatvik vegetarian food; and getting much sleep, I also had an intense session of yoga nidra with a meditation instructor called Bala, whose name means ‘young one’ and who had the look of agonized innocence on his face, a sort of worried wonder, as if he is in a state of perpetual seeking. He not only led me through this meditation but we also later had a deep discussion about ‘perceptions’ and ‘beliefs’ that end up defining our identities and desires. I would like to share excerpts from this session here lest I forget:
A question of craving
We talked about why I felt that I ‘compensate’ a certain lack of something in my life with food. He said most overweight people have a ‘craving’ for something, some expectations that were not being met, and it’s often to do with love.
“But I feel an abundance of love in my life,” I said. “I feel like I am surrounded by people who love me, who cherish me very truly.”
“Then you don’t love yourself,” Bala said. “If you don’t love yourself, it doesn’t matter how many people out there love you. You will always be in a state of craving.”
When Bala guided me to imagine my most cherished dream, I visualized myself as a huge big heart-shaped entity of love, generating loving waves to all my family and the world while not getting depleted myself. Then later, Bala asked me to go back to this vision after the entire healing process was done, and have a re-look at it. He suggested I ask myself, ‘Where did this desire come from? Who put it there?’ Those questions stopped me dead in my tracks. Who put those desires there? Who decided I am a ‘giver’ of love? Where did that dream come from? I live out my life based on this ‘vision’ of myself, but when and how did this ‘vision’ originate?
Bala exlained that these visions of who we think we are define our actions in life and our reactions to every situation. The aim is to differentiate between ‘reaction’ from past conditioning versus ‘action’ from your truest self. “It is you who has to discover and decide whether that vision is an identity created from conditioning or if it is your true purpose.” If I am being ‘depleted’ while acting out an identity I have created for myself, then there’s something I’m not doing right.
I was stunned when he said all this. I began to question, ‘If I am not this, then what am I?’ It is like my identity has been stripped away and I have to begin afresh.
The big question
After coming back home, I am once again inundated with ‘stuff’ to do, things to be organized and the dread of my domestic help’s impending week-long holiday. But there is a new space created in my head, new questions that will prod me to seek more truths within myself in the quest for their answers. To be honest, though, at the moment it feels as impossible as searching for a needle in a haystack.
Who am I? Who do I think I am? And where did this identity and these dreams come from?