The journey within is long and hard, but it is the only path to understanding the self. By Gregory Ormson
The journey inward is a true martial art of the soul, for as we make progress toward the deep self, the mystery of being sidesteps our efforts to identify, label, categorise, or minimise its wonder. At centre, human beings are transparent, shimmering, oxygen-rich electric bodies. We’re miracles of body, spirit, and intellect functioning in union.
The long line of yogis preceding us walked in complete confidence of the spirit and intellect at one with the physical body and consciousness. Yoga was, for them, simply proof of the one body with multiple layers the yogis called Koshas. To visualise this, see in your mind a five-
tiered Russian babushka doll, also called a tea doll. The outer and largest shell is like the physical body, but there are four other identical bodies inside the largest doll. The yogis called these layers Koshas. Koshas are five aspects of the same integrated mind, body, and spirit. They accepted this and treated their bodies as kinesthetic and spiritual canvases made from multiple layers. In our own way during our years of practice we do the same thing.
This integration of mind, body, and spirit means that our yoga journey is subject to many influences and the path unfolds unpredictably in a serpentine-like track that is lived in outward form yet at the same time lived within the self. Every physical, non- physical, and metaphysical move we make in yoga kisses the soul and touches our inner self.
This journey inward, conjoined with the journey in a physical body, moves us to shed old identities along the way. A yoga teacher I know summarised this with her story:
“I was listening to a man talk one day in a group and he said, ‘We all believe this.’ I realised at that moment, at the age of 40, that I didn’t know what I believed, but I knew I didn’t believe what he was saying.” This started her journey of shedding a false identity imposed by an outer authority and it opened her up to yoga and other changes. “Now I know what I believe,” she said.
The long road
The road we travel in yoga is parabolic. A parable is a question with many answers, and while it’s not the same as a riddle, it’s set up like a riddle. If I were to ask you what note the unstruck sound makes, you might give me an answer. Another person will have another answer, and yet someone else will challenge the question and its assumptions. Everyone’s yoga journey is parabolic too. A journey always involves movement. The movement does not have to be physical. The Oxford-born physicist, Steven Hawking, is an example of someone who traveled further than most of us, even though physically he could barely move after his bodily paralysis set-in during his early 20s. Mentally, he journeyed through the galaxies and wrote of gravity and physics in profound ways.