We all value money, a lot. Everybody does. But, if our life is in danger, if somebody puts a gun to our head and says “give me your money or I kill you”, we have no problem in giving all our money away. We have no doubts about it.
We value our life very much. But if we have a kid and he/she is in danger, we have no problem at all in putting our life in danger for their sake.
We have a lot of values, but all these values are relative to the circumstances and to our understanding of what the things we value can give us.
We value enormously the outside world: making it in life, getting things from life – profession, relationships, family, fame, recognition, security, power, comfort, pleasure. We value all these so much that virtually our whole life is about getting and securing one or more of them. All our attention – our love – is going into these things. And we value them because we honestly believe that what we really want in life – happiness – can be obtained through them.
But this is our fundamental error. All these things can only give us a momentary touch of happiness, a glimpse into what we want, but they will never ultimately satisfy us. Only in presence we can find the real meaning of our life.
What I want for the Yoga classes, as we do our gym, is that we start to value what can be called our own presence, the simple sense of ‘I am here’, ‘I exist’, ‘I am’.
Just for a moment, for a few seconds, stop reading these words, close your eyes, and try to have the feeling, the sensation (it is neither a feeling nor a sensation but it is fine to use these words for now) of your own awareness, of your own presence, of your own sense of being here right now. Just say ‘I am’ and stop there. Don’t add anything to it, just the naked sense of existing right now. Try it.
It is very rare for anybody to know that this presence/awareness is there, let alone for it to become a value. But it is there all the time, it’s just that we do not notice it. It is like gravity. We experience it all the time, but we are not aware of it. It is OK with gravity, but it is not OK with presence. We may have a glimpse of it in a moment of danger, when suddenly we experience our aliveness. But usually this glimpse does not last long because then thought comes, and instead of feeling that life, we start thinking of the content of our lives, the story of our lives, and the naked sense of our existence is lost.
What I want to encourage in the classes is to start to notice that sense of presence, of existence, and to start to have an interest in it. What is this presence, aliveness, awareness? How do I know that I am, that I exist? A stone does not know that it is a stone. A tree moves towards light and a dog recognizes itself when it sees another dog. These are very rudimentary forms of self awareness. But for human beings self awareness is the main characteristic. We know we are, we know we exist. We are aware. What is this awareness? Where does it come from?
Many people may have the sense that they want to know the truth, they want to know what life is about, to find the meaning of life, the essence of life… There are many ways to express that urge, that drive, that impulse to know, to understand… What is life? Who am I, really? What is God? Why do I suffer? Why am I not happy? Why do I feel empty and incomplete? What is truth? What is eternity? All the answers to these and other similar questions start (and end) in this presence, in this naked sense of aliveness, of existence.
This presence is not a product of the brain, as science will suggest. This presence does not belong to the person, is not encapsulated inside the body, does not die when the person dies. This presence is life, is the essence of life, is the substance that life is made of. When we connect with this aliveness, we are connected to the whole… we become the whole.
My interest is that you yourself become interested in that presence, in that sense of awareness; that you become aware of your own existence.
Now, in order to be able for us to pay attention to presence, in order to actually dedicate the time and attention that presence deserves, we need to have a quiet mind. Otherwise, our attention is just going to be directed to our problems, to our everyday needs, to our worries, plans, projections, sorrows, wishes, desires, fears. A quiet mind is a mind that is not taken so much by life’s ups and downs but has reached a level of harmony and balance that will create the space for presence-awareness to happen. A quiet mind is a mind that lives in harmony with the needs of the total. And so, while we do our gym, we also take care of our mind: we eat intentionally, like here; we act with presence, like here and here and here; we learn to deal with other people, like here and here; we become more grateful, like here; we learn about love and relationships, like here; we learn about our thoughts, like here and here and here; we became aware of the background, like here; we learn about suffering, like here and here; we learn to love ourselves, like here; we discover dharma, like here; we connect to beauty, like here; we learn to forgive, like here and here; we study ways to create a quiet mind, like here.
In conclusion, the Yoga classes are composed of two auxiliary aims directed to a third, fundamental aim.
The two auxiliary aims are: taking care of our body, making it healthier, stronger and more flexible, and taking care of our mind by balancing it and harmonizing it. The third, fundamental aim is: learning to pay attention, to value and to understand presence.
Without the two auxiliary aims our attention will be constantly directed to the problems, difficulties and complexities of everyday life. Without the third, fundamental aim, our lives will remain empty and pointless.
The real, fundamental meaning of our lives can only be discovered in presence.