Thursday, November 11, 2010

From "The Song of the Soul," or Atma Shatakam:

Neither knowable, knowledge, nor knower am I, formless is my form,
I dwell within the senses but they are not my home:
Ever serenely balanced, I am neither free nor bound -
Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss is where I'm found.

This sixth and final stanza of the Atma Shatakam has significant meaning for me. I have meditated on it as a chosen "intention" through many, many asana practices, and have always felt its profound resonance with the same intensity each time. I first read it in Yoga Journal's black-and-white pictorial Yoga, which is a lovely book of master yogis photographed in the fullness of asana (some four hundred or more photos, I believe). For many years as my home practice, I would simply open this book and practice whatever variation I could attempt of whichever pose the book fell open to. (I highly recommend this practice if you ever find yourself in a rut...)

The passage above is a very artistic and poetic translation (from BKS Iyengar) of the original passage, which reads a bit differently when translated literally:

I am all pervasive.
I am without any attributes,
and without any form.
I have neither attachment to the world,
nor to liberation.
I have no wishes for anything
because I am everything,
every time,
always in equilibrium.
I am indeed, that eternal knowing and bliss,
Shiva, love and pure consciousness.

Meditating on this passage has done more to free me in my personal yoga practice than any other tool, because of its affirmation of the potential of the malleable or "formless" body, its relinquishment of attachment or aversion to any (even the best) outcome, and its reminder (reminiscent of The Gaia Theory) of our inextricable connection to the greater world.

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