This post originally appeared on the Embodyoga Blog.
“I am the path and the goal, the upholder, the master, the witness, the abode and the refuge, the loving friend, the origin, the foundation and the dissolution, the resting place and the imperishable seed of all…I am immortality and also death, and the existent and the non-existent am I, O Arjuna.” Bhagavad Gita 9.18
Embodyoga offers us a unique opportunity to experience God in our bodies. Much has been said about the body/mind split, and much healing has happened in recent years as we awaken to the reality that body and mind are one whole, integrated through and through. We know that health and healing require the re-integration and re-partnering of body and mind, rather than viewing them as individual systems to be “worked on” individually and separately.
But we also have historically created and experienced a false split between matter and God. Not just science, which in its modern dogma of fundamental materialism often denies God altogether, but religions and spiritual traditions throughout history have put God up, up, and away, out in the cosmos somewhere far away from us. Even many yoga traditions have spoken of God as an abstraction, an idea, a story, a myth, and union with God something that happens by transcending and escaping this world through meditation or other methods.
God is not far away. God is intimately near. Every atom, every molecule, every living cell on Earth is made of God. God is the Oneness that gives birth to life, and life lives in everything, even material that we often speak of as ‘dead’. Even in dead matter, protons and electrons are swirling, life and mind are involuted but dancing, sleeping but waiting to awaken. And this life is God’s breath, God’s life, God’s being. This mind is the mind of God.
The origins of yoga lie in the pursuit and direct experience of union with God. In Sanskrit there are hundreds of names for God – names that reflect the infinite aspects and personalities of the Divine One. In the west we have one name that has been used and misused throughout the centuries, but that retains its nobility and regal vibration nonetheless. We can say Oneness, the Supreme, the Absolute, Spirit, Source, etc, but these words seem somehow to approximate the Nameless One that God is, whereas “God” just points right at it.
Yoga is union with God, and this union is possible because it is our true nature and the true nature of all reality. Matter, the stuff of which our bodies are made, so concrete and individuated, asleep to its true nature, is God’s body that has forgotten itself. And our bodies manifest this wonderfully. In our bodies, matter, life, and mind are all present, and we have the capacity to unite them consciously by directing our attention into our body’s structures and systems.
This is where Embodyoga offers us a unique gift. When we go inside and feel the living consciousness in our organs, bones, cells, or fluids, when we embrace them and begin to merge our consciousness with their inherent consciousness, first what we find is a fascinating experience of connection with a part of us that may have felt like an ‘other’, something that we own or contain rather than something that we are. Suddenly we are our small intestine, or our femur, cytoplasm, synovial fluid. These are not discreet objects moving around inside the bag of skin that we wear – they are discreet and unique manifestations of our consciousness. They are us, in form.
But this is just the first layer – not the end. Below this layer of experience is another, where we realize that these structures and systems are not just ‘us’ as individuals. My lung is not just my individual personal lung – it is a part of the universal lung and shares qualities and vibrations with all lungs. And the universal lung arises from a stream of consciousness – its substance is consciousness, and it manifests the universal qualities of exhale/condense, relief/release, grief/regret, inhale/expand, longing/aspiration, hope/embracing. When I touch my lung with my awareness, I touch into this stream of universal qualities that underlies the form and brings it into being.
And there are deeper and wider and more comprehensive layers still, all of them embraced by and drawn from the Original Vastness, the One that gives birth to all matter, life, and mind, that breathes the cosmos into existence. This One is God. The Creator, The Sustainer, The Destroyer. The unfathomable Love that sings a million songs in every language. And one of these songs is the universal lung, out of which my lung arises.
This is the door that Embodyoga opens. It opens a door that leads to a series of doors that leads beyond all doors to the Source of Heaven and Earth. And this Source is not other than our very deepest selves. The separation and individuation that we experience in ordinary life is a trick of perception, like looking into a shattered mirror at a distorted image. We are not the image. We are the undistorted whole that is reflected as fragmented. And by entering into relationship with our bodies and seeking God there, we move toward a clear and undistorted picture of ourselves.
The great yogi Ramana Maharshi once said that “your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.” May our service ripple throughout the longing and aching world, bringing healing and comfort in this time of great need.