Wellness has become a buzzword these days, ranging in application from medical diagnoses to spa services. Anyone you ask will have a list of things that make him/her feel good. For most people, this list will be based on circumstances and relationships outside of themselves. But externals are always changing and in order to cultivate an overall sense of true wellbeing, we must tap a source that remains consistent regardless of anything happening around us.
To be well is to be balanced in body, mind and emotions in such a way that whatever life brings, we handle it with equanimity, acceptance and love. In his translation of one of the classic texts of yoga the Bhagavad Gita, Paramahansa Yogananda lists these qualities that contribute to our wellbeing: even-mindedness in suffering and joy, forgiving, firmly determined, kind to all, free from hatred and possessiveness. If we practice cultivating these qualities we can live in a state of joyfulness each day, no matter what. Pain may come but we remain connected to joy.
I experienced this recently while sitting on the beach. For over 20-years I have tried to practice the qualities listed above in my personal life and in my yoga teaching. To my delight the other day, for no particular reason I noticed a full body sensation of joy arise. I had not won the lottery, or landed a big business deal or even received a compliment, but there it was, pure unadulterated joy. The sensation is different from the happiness I feel when I’m laughing with a friend or my son does well at school. This joy, unbidden but fully present feels unattached, free, unaffected by the fluctuations of daily life.
Now don’t get me wrong, this blissful feeling didn’t stay all day, but what is important is that it came at all. Like in meditation when we have a moment of pure stillness and peace, it is an indicator of what is possible and what we are moving toward through our practices. It is encouraging when the inevitable cycles of stress swirl around us. Because I experienced this sweet sense of wellbeing unattached to the story of my life, I am better able to handle the daily challenges that arise. And although my life has not become a model of perfection, I feel it anyway, this joy that does not fade and a true wellness within. What has taken me here is the practice of yoga and meditation.
Although best known in the West as a modality of exercise, yoga is truly an ancient science of right living and wellbeing. To practice yoga in its fullest sense is a whole lot more than rolling out a sticky mat for an hour a week and doing a few downward facing dog poses. The practice of yoga integrates the body, mind and soul and allows us to commune with the Source of our Being and therefore our well-Being.
By using the yogic practice of deep focus and concentration (Dharana), to enter the stillness of meditation, we can begin to know ourselves as part and parcel of the Source of Life, infinitely more than the human drama unfolding before us on any given day. We reconnect to the awareness of our soul and its inherent unity with Universal Consciousness and an ever-new bliss. This union of consciousness is the essential meaning and purpose of yoga.
“United in the heart, consciousness is steadied, then we abide in our true nature – joy,” states Yoga Sutra 1.3 as translated by Nischala Joy Devi in The Secret Power of Yoga.
When we reunite with our true nature we feel well. And when we are in this state of wellness, we manage all that life brings with peace, love, clarity and equanimity. Of course it requires more effort than getting a spa treatment, but the lasting benefit is well worth the investment!