You have been doing this yoga stuff for how long? And you haven’t reached enlightenment yet! You want it now and you’re taking every yoga class and doing every meditation possible to get there. BUT!!!!
Do you even know what enlightenment looks like?
There is all this talk these days about enlightenment, the goal of yoga, and what the ultimate purpose is, and yet, it seems that people keep searching, not really knowing what they are searching for.
Do you even know when have attained or achieved a certain level of practice and what that should look like?
With the rise of yoga celebrities, who are always posting photos of them doing amazing acrobatic poses, more and more people are confused by the terms “advanced yoga classes” or “advanced yoga poses.” People look at the photos of these celebrities and (REALLY) think, “I will have so much peace in my life if I could do that.”
But do you even know what real peace or happiness is?
In yoga conferences, one of these yoga celebrities will hold a yoga demonstration, showing off their latest accomplishments in handstands, and all of the acrobatic postures that are associated with handstand. (My teacher once said that the most profound yoga posture to demonstrate would be Savasana. Savasana will get you still enough to withdraw inward enough for a student to truly experience in their inner sanctuary.)
So how do you know if your yoga is working for you? How do you know if you have found the right yoga teacher for you?
There is a lot of talk about what the goal of yoga is, and how to get there.
But very few people really know and even fewer have been taught. You can see evidence in this in the amount of documentaries and blog posts out there asking this very question. For example:
Since I have been an ardent student for over 25 years, and teaching for over 20, I have seen that there are so many ideas about what yoga is. It is so easy to get lost in opinions.
When I have a doubt or hear something that doesn’t sound quite correct, I always return to Yoga Surtra 1:3. This sutra very clearly says,
“The Seer becomes established in its essential nature.”
Of course, you, like most people are probably saying right now, “What the &#%& does that mean!? And how do I even know the experience of it when I am there?”
Well, let’s break it down. It simply means, that you have this very deep feeling, and I mean really deep and unshakable feeling, of being at home or resting within yourself.
But it is sometimes hard to know if you have truly reached that state.
But, once you have, there are signs you can look for in your life. These signs will show you that you are starting to get really close. But what are those signs that you are close to reaching yoga’s goal?
Here are the 10 signs you have reached enlightenment!
1. Your are truly happy.
Ask yourself if you are truly happy? Are you content with yourself and your life? Does your happiness come from within you? Or do you chase happiness outside of you? Are you looking for something outside of you to bring you fulfillment?
So many of us are conditioned to be happy only when something outside of us “makes us happy.” However, the result of a meaningful yoga practice is that peace and happiness is a spontaneous virtue. We do not have to run after or chase happiness.
If we are doing the correct yoga practices, we will discover that happiness is a state we begin to live in effortlessly.
The sages of the Himalayas teach that the goal of life is to be content. In other words, the goal of life is to be happy. Happiness is not something that is supposed to be a stretch to reach, it is already within you. And once you arrive at this truth, the state of happiness just is. You no longer distinguish between happiness and sadness, you just are.
And who you are is happiness.
Who you are is joy.
Who you are at your core is peace.
2. Pain and pleasure no longer affect you and control your emotions.
We all talk about finding balance, but what does that really mean.
Sutra 2:48 from Patanjali’s yoga sutra could not be more clear.
“The pairs of opposites cease to have any effect.”
The pairs of opposites basically refer to pain and pleasure.
Think about how often in your life you are running away from pain and chasing after pleasure. It happens, most likely, every moment of every day.
We become so easily imbalanced when we experience the slightest bit of discomfort. When we are constantly affected by pain and pleasure, we are never happy in life and are never able to truly appreciate the abundance that life offers.
When we embrace a correct practice of yoga, our mind becomes steeped in balance. In this balanced state, we are no longer distracted by perceived pain or pleasure and are able to embrace everything as a whole.
3. Traffic jams no longer bother you.
I had to put driving as an essential rung on the pathway to enlightenment. Getting stuck in traffic is my personal Achilles heel. I struggle with patience. We are not the best of friends, and impatience tends to rear its ugly head when I am driving.
Is patience something that comes easily to you? Are you able to have compassion and patience for how other people “be” around you. The real yogis I have read about all have a few things in common. One of greatest attributes that all have in their character is patience. The solution? The sages teach us that “the world continues on around us. Continue to maintain the awareness of the absolute reality within.”
4. Do you recognize life is a gift and that your time is limited here on earth?
When you wake up in the morning, do you wake up with a joyful thankful attitude? Or are you continuously upset that life is not showing up for you the way you think it should? Are you envious of others happiness or struggling to find yours? Are you jealous of others and how they live their lives or of the possessions they have? Or do you live in gratitude and express gratitude every moment of the day?
Gratitude and thankfulness is an essential rung on the ladder to enlightenment.
If you are a person who feels entitled or that you are owed, it might be difficult to find gratitude for what you do have. For some, they feel they are entitled to their “yoga” as they feel entitled to the other things they have. These people complain incessantly about how life is not as it should be. And when it comes to their “yoga”, they complain it was not good enough or powerful enough, or fast-paced enough. Nothing was right.
Nothing was right and never will be right for these people. And they will not realize the gift of life until it is too late.
There is an old expression your teachers have taught you. “Take the time to smell the roses.” What these teachers were really reminding you was that life is a gift. When we say thank you, and TRULY MEAN IT, we are reminding ourselves of the precious moments we have on Earth and that our time is limited.
5. You are no longer afraid of losing your stuff.
So much of our stress comes from our constant worry about losing what we have in life. As stated above, so many of us forget how precious life is. We forget to take gratitude for the abundance we have. When we have little gratitude, our perception of life becomes skewed. Because we don’t recognize life’s gifts, we believe that the pathway to our happiness is in the things we collect in life. We have forgotten that the things of the world are meant to serve us and our path to enlightenment. We are not meant to serve the things of the world.
We have started to collect a lot of things: land, things, or money… and many of us petition governments to protect these things even after we are gone.
Our life is consumed with the protection of our “stuff”, and for many, even after death. We are consumed with what will happen to our stuff once we are dead.
If you are the type of person who thinks about your stuff a lot – how you will pay for it, how you can get more, how you can continue to justify paying for what you do have – then you know you have a lot of work to do.
Jesus said it best at “There Sermon On The Mount”:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’or ‘What shall we wear?’ …
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
6. When you take great delight in silence.
Silence is really difficult for most of us. Here at Blue Osa, we practice silence every morning until 7:30. This practice is really hard for some people. From my room, I can hear the mindless chatter taking place at early hours of the morning. People not only talking about nothing but are completely clueless about the noise pollution they are creating. Being quiet is not easy. We have an innate need to fill space around us.
Mother Theresa said it best:
The heart listens.”
The yogi’s sciences teach us that spirit / the sacred is the voice of the heart. When we can start to train our minds to turn inward, all of the wisdom and answers we are seeking can be found.
When you are silent, you have to listen. And when you truly listen, you become a better person – a better human being.
7. Apologies and forgiveness come easily and you give it freely.
I was reading this post on Facebook recently and this was the exact story printed.
“Stopped to get dinner for my son and the guy behind us in the drive-thru yells to my son, “Hurry up fucken $%&%$!” When I got to the window I asked to pay for his order. I wrote this on the back of his receipt and asked the cashier to hand it to him with his food. My son asked me why I paid for his food if he was mean, I explained that being nice to nice people is easy, you have to be nice to mean people, that’s the hardest thing to do.”
Too many of us are waiting for other people to be nice. And way to many of us are waiting for other people to apologize first. So just accept that the apology is not coming first. But more, accept that you don’t need apologies. Again, quoting scripture:
“Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth.”
8. You can go a a day (or two) with no food without losing your shit.
Whenever I invite people to go without food for a day, one might think that I had asked them to pluck their eyes out. The look of absolute horror and indignation that I receive in return speaks volumes about their own relationship to food.
If you are truly embracing yoga as a practice, then attending to our four primal urges is not only required, it is essential. Too many of us are unconsciously being controlled by the four basic urges – sex, sleep, survival, and yes, food.
It is amazing that people go to school, sometimes for years and years, but never truly study and understand the effects of food on our mental state. Food has such a deep control over us. We need to make personal experiments with food so that we can understand its control over us and in turn, become free from it.
9. Learn to become free from all that is controlling you.
Just for a moment, pause, and think about all of your beliefs around food. And now notice how many of those beliefs have become your reality – your truth.
How many times have you heard your friends say, or you yourself have said, “If I do not eat soon, I will die.” or “I am going to turn into a real bitch if I do not eat soon.” And we do turn into a bitch. Some of us turn into real assholes if we do not get to eat when we THINK we should eat.
Have you ever stopped to consider the insanity of this? Really. You don’t eat so you turn into an asshole. I can tell you that you were probably already an asshole. Going without food may be your excuse, but it certainly was not the cause.
Practice going on without food. Don’t let food, your ideas and beliefs about food, disrupt your emotional equilibrium. Use fasting as a way to begin to understand your beliefs around food and how much food controls who you are in life. When you are able to go without food with grace and ease, and maintain a level of happiness, you will know that you have climbed an essential rung on the ladder to enlightenment.
Bonus: Death no longer scares you
Sadly, the subject of death is the one conversation we need to have more of, and the one conversation none of us really ever have.
When I was a child, I would remember broaching the subject of death with both of my grandparents. And every time I was met with the same response.
“Don’t be rude!”
It was never okay to talk about death. It was never okay to ask someone who had recently lost a loved one about that loved one or how they died for fear of becoming insensitive.
There is absolutely nothing insensitive about death. This is a silly notion that we have imposed on each other. Dying is as normal as being born. (In some advanced cultures, death is as celebrated as a birth.) Death is a natural state of life. Without death, there is no birth. Death has to happen.
The real reason why we have any spiritual practice is to overcome our fear of death. All spiritual practices in some way, have us confront this inevitable date with destiny. Death is coming to us all whether we want it to happen or not. Sadly, many of us are wasting precious time in this journey to death.
Your yoga practice should not only help you to overcome this (irrational) fear, but it should also help you to understand and comprehend the complete and systematic process that happens during death. (For more reading about this topic, there are two books I would suggest. 1. From Death to Birth and 2. The Tibetan Book Of The Dead.