In yoga, the self-reflective question “Who am I?” is often posed as an invocation of personal meditation, or deep contemplation, on the critical query of discovering one’s true Self. It is an invitation for each of us to reflect, in detail, the meaning behind the “I” that we so strongly identify and associate with. Or rather, have mistakenly been conditioned to believe is who we are.
How difficult can it be to answer this 3-worded question?
I am… my name. Am I not?
I am… my nationality; a patriotic representation of my country. Am I not?
I am… this human being that you see and that I, too, see reflected in photographs and the mirror; I am the unique composition of my physical features. I am this body. Am I not?
I am… the voice behind my thoughts; a combination of my intellect, opinions, beliefs, and personality. I, therefore, am my mind. Am I not?
One must not be fooled with the simple sounding nature of this question by responding so simply when recognizing and acknowledging our Self. Then how to begin answering this undoubtedly vital and personally intricate topic?
It is important for one to first differentiate and shed light on this pivotal misconception: You are not this body, you are not the mind. I myself, was not told this differentiation so plainly and clearly until I was sitting in a Vedic philosophy class in Toronto, in 2013 – and how I wish I knew this sooner! Well, I believe as I child I knew, but then as we age we often forget our inherent disposition. But if we are neither the body or mind, who are we? Who am I within the body? And here begins the journey of discovering ourselves as a Spirit Soul.
A Yogic Perspective
Yoga values the science of self-realization. Literally, to bring awareness to one’s Self. In the West, physical yoga is very popular… you may even do it yourself. Did you know that this physical (or Hatha) Yoga is meant to prepare us for long periods of meditation? To use our bodies as a tool to engage in transcendental meditative practice, for self-realization. There are many beautiful ways in which the body can aid us in discovering who we really are. This leads me to what I wished to share today, as it is something I have had a hard time understanding over the course of my own life time: how to view the body as an instrument in facilitating Spiritual growth. But how do we acknowledge we are not the body, yet not consequentially be frustrated with it for ‘containing’ us, this Spirit Soul? I, myself, for many years felt trapped inside my body, angry for feeling limited within it. I quite literally picked my skin as a form of expressing this negative view of my skin encasing me. Of course, only furthering hyper body awareness, which many people experience.
Changing Pain to Appreciation
How to switch my perspective, while remaining respectful to the truth and science of yogic wisdom? That we are Spirit that is not born nor doesn’t die with our bodies. This is what I concluded. The body houses the Soul, gives it opportunity to experience this life and LIVE. Our one of a kind, beautiful body is the physical, material manifestation of our unique Soul. Therefore, our bodies truly are a temple of God (whoever God/Source may be to you).
Appreciating the body, yet not identifying with it, takes practice and patience. It is interesting to observe and feel how we are so closely bound to our attachments, especially regarding the body. As a young girl who was taught from others’ comments to hate her body, I can personally state from experience that revering my body as a ‘temple of God’ was not my idea of fun. Though the perspective of this ancient knowledge has undoubtedly been a source of liberation from the chains I once felt were comprised of this skin.
Celebrating the Body
Let’s talk about meditation-specific ways to appreciate the body. There are countless customs in a myriad of various cultures for how we can adorn and celebrate who we are, where we came from, through using our bodies to glorify our true and authentic selves within. For example, a devotee of Lord Krishna decorates the body with tilaka (sandalwood paste), as a reminder of Krishna, as well as to receive protection from the Lord. For us in the West who are inundated with societal pressures and expectations: instead of causing harm and destruction to the body (guilty), sabotaging it – even if that’s simply by comparing it to others or the initially innocent habit of emotional eating, etc. (again, guilty), or despising it for it not working properly for us as a result of injury or the inescapable course of aging… here is what we CAN do. We can respect and care for it as a residence of God. The Soul lives within the body, as well as the Paramatma, what is translated from Sanskrit to be called the ‘Supersoul’.
The 5 Senses
In addition, we can also employ the different senses our body already has for spiritual advancement. The tongue, for instance, can be used to chant or do mantra meditation, performed on mala beads. Tiny Devotions carries a beautiful variety of mala beads with semi-precious gemstones, created with the highest intentions of healing and peace. Wearing mala beads on your body is a useful and positively helpful method because, of course, you regularly see the mala on yourself, thus it cues you to stop and take time throughout your day to meditate and quiet the mind. They act as a great self-reminder and guide in this way, so that no matter what stress may be accumulating in your day, you can quickly and easily access the mala that is adorning your body – engage the sense of touch, connect with its strength and intrinsic potency – and dive inward. Expanding further with the senses: the nose can smell beautiful incense or candles or essential oils; we can hear scriptures or classes from learned, enlightened beings/Gurus/monks, and so on. I hope these ideas expand your current concepts and make room for new, simple and highly effective techniques you can try out and adopt into your daily life. After all, we are creatures of habit!
We All Seek Connection
To conclude, let us not forget that the word “yoga” means ‘union’, or to ‘connect’. I encourage you to remember as often as you consciously can, that in order to connect our Spirit Souls to that which created us, we must be in union with the manifestations of our Spirit Soul, including our beloved bodies. Our bodies are unique and sacred. Let us set some goals to implement into our personal practice as well as mindfully throughout our days as best as we can from here on, toward treating our bodies as our own best friend and have them assist us, versus deter us, from our inherent disposition of being happy, kind, and free Spirits. I wish this helps you view your body in a mode of goodness, with love and self-respect. You deserve it!
Namaste, With love and light,
Melinda Michael is an active pursuer of discovering the root of knowledge and the best methods that lead us on paths of discovering eternal happiness (not temporary). It has really been a calling of hers throughout her life to seek the oldest sources on any topic matter, though spirituality, religion, language, culture and history have been of keen interest. She has spent the past 5 years specifically searching and engaging herself in an abundant number of techniques from around the world for meditation (listed below). She has come to find a beautiful harmony between music and meditation, and her favourite activity is playing her harmonium while singing in group Kirtans. Melinda’s mindset is one of determination and resilience for overcoming obstacles, especially out of the throttles of anxiety and depression and chronic digestive disorders. She hopes to share her story and the information she has accumulated over the years from her own, personal journey toward serving others to attain a happy and health mind, body and Spirit.
If anyone is curious about any of the following practices, feel free to reach out. Melinda is happy to guide you as best as she can.
- Reiki – Melinda is a certified Reiki practitioner and is available for in-person or long distance healing sessions.
- Mantra Meditation or Chanting
- Musical Meditation (Kirtan)
- Vegan, Gluten-free, Soy-free Nutrition
- Brainwave Optimization
- EFT (Emotional Freedom Therapy, or “Tapping”)
- NDT (New Decision Therapy)
- TMS (Trans Magnetic Stimulation)
- CBT (Cognitive Beahvior Therapy)
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
- NES Health
- Bach flower remedies
- Cranial Sacral Therapy
- Ozone Therapy
- Colon Hydrotherapy
- More Meditation Methods, like: The Lester Levenson Love Technique, theHeadless Way by Richard Lang, Direct Inquiry, Noting Meditation, and Group Awareness