Thursday, August 5, 2010

Samadhi, or Enlightenment

Samadhi, or enlightenment, is the eighth limb of yoga. It can be defined as a becoming one with the divine, or being in a state of bliss, where there is nothing more to be done or sought. It is generally achieved via deep meditation.

Some say that this is what we strive for while practicing yoga and meditation. There are plenty of seekers that want to achieve enlightenment and live in a permanent state of bliss. It’s a noble goal, and entirely possible. Who doesn’t want bliss?

But in the meantime, we have all the other limbs of the yoga tree to help us along the way -- to teach us valuable lessons about ourselves, and others, about our own worlds as well as the entire universe.

Spiritual seekers are often categorized into four sets or stages. There are the new seekers, aka students, who are actively learning the ropes of spiritual reflection. There are more mature seekers, or householders, whose charge is to apply what they have learned to their family lives. There are those who still later in life – think of retirees or crones -- begin to withdraw from the world and turn their focus inward. And there are renunciates – think monks and nuns -- who withdraw completely from the world and devote their lives to spiritual seeking.

Where are you on this spectrum?

In the past decade, I have crossed the threshold from student to householder. Before my son was born, it was a priority for me to attend yoga workshops – sometimes for two weeks at a time – twice a year at Kripalu in the Berkshires. It was a wonderful way to immerse myself in the reflective practices of yoga, meditation, pranayama and (relative) solitude. Now as a mother of an active four year old, I’m lucky if I can fit in a daily meditation. I’m fortunate, at least, that one of my jobs is to teach yoga . . . .so it’s my “duty,” in a sense, to stretch and breathe each day.

Transitions like these can be startling. To go from focusing on my own spiritual path to learning how to practice what I’ve learned in the context of a family – and all the demands that family life (combined with part-to-full-time work) bring into the picture. Not easy, not easy.

But still, there are moments of deep insight and stillness that seem to arise out of nowhere and help me to see how it’s all connected. Glimpses of bliss. I’m content with this for now.