Why seek Self-realization? Why bother with changing your life to have a greater connection with your Spirit? Self-realization is a state of awareness characterized by clarity, authenticity, and serene happiness. The ultimate goal of seeking Self-realization is to find meaningful happiness. Self-realization is more of an orientation toward a goal than a state of accomplishment. Meaningful happiness is found on the journey to Self-realization rather than arrival at its destination. The attainment of Self-realization is not as important as the benefits you gain by seeking it.
Self-realization is based on the concept that there is a True Self and a false self. The false self is your conscious mind. The True Self is not easily defined; if it were then Self-realization would be a simpler task. Generally the True Self is understood to be your Spirit.
Self-realization is a process of shifting your identity from your conscious mind to your Spirit. An analogy that illustrates the point is of a king who develops amnesia. Unbeknownst to his subjects he wanders out of his palace to the country side. In order to support himself the king finds work as a laborer on a farm. Eventually the king grows to believe he has always been a farm worker. The king’s belief that he is a farm worker is like similar to your identification with your false self. If the king recovers his memory he would know his True Self and return to the palace as King.
You are a Spirit having an earthly experience. The problem is you have forgotten that you are Spirit and now identify with your conscious mind. The path to Self-realization involves looking past your conscious mind to see your Spirit. Self-realization is an experience of being fully present in the world as your Spirit. The path to Self-realization consists of practices directed at helping you become Spirit.
It is not the purpose of this book to argue for the existence of Spirit or a spiritual dimension. That is for you to discover on your own. This book focuses on Self-realization. It is a step by step guide to help you realize the presence of your Spirit in your life. The ultimate goal is to reap the benefits of Self-realization, which are happiness, health, and wisdom.
Of all the Eastern traditions Yoga has the most developed teachings regarding Self-Realization. Yoga is a branch of Hinduism, the world’s oldest religion. Yoga dates back to cave monasteries that existed in the Himalayas 5000 years ago. Today Yoga is generally known as a form of exercise involving physical poses and stretches. Ancient Yoga had little to do with these postures. The yogis of the Himalayan monasteries focused upon meditation as a means for achieving higher states of consciousness and spiritual development.
The Yoga Sutras offers a concise step by step guide to Self-realization. The Yoga master Pantanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras in approximately 200 BCE. The general framework of this book is based upon the practices and principles found in the Yoga Sutras. As much as possible these ancient teachings are illustrated through modern science in the form of psychology, neuropsychology, and physics.
The practices presented in the following chapters are based on the concept that the path to Self-realization is primarily a process of removing obstacles and distractions. You do not need to add to yourself to be your Spirit, but rather take away. Self-realization involves removing those things that you are doing that separate you from your Spirit. When you remove these obstacles your Spirit naturally arises. Self-realization does not come from action or learning, but instead by the removal of obstacles. Similar to the way a farmer removes a sluice gate to irrigate a field.
The farmer’s field has shallow indentations running in between the lines of crops. Near the field runs a stream. When the farmer wishes to irrigate the crops he raises a sluice gate at the stream which allows water to flow down and irrigate the field. The analogy indicates that there are things you do that block your Spirit from fully entering into your life. Remove these blockages and your Spirit will fill your life.
One way to think of blockages to Self-realization is to imagine a sun beam entering a room through a small hole in a wall. The room is otherwise dark except for this ray of light. Now a jar of water is placed near the hole blocking the sun beam. If the water in the jar is pure the light will shine through. In contrast if the jar is full of floating impurities then the light will be blocked and the room will be dark. Your Spirit is the sun beam and your blockages are those objects floating in the jar. If you can clarify the water, your Spirit will shine into your life.
Blockages to Self-realization occur at the level of social relationships, thoughts, and physical health. At the social level blockages develop from relationships that are characterized by anger, jealousy, fear, or violence. Such problems drain time and energy away from pursuits that can bring you closer to your Spirit. At the mental level blockages come from emotions and thoughts that disturb the mind. When your mind is disturbed you are blocked from experiencing your Spirit.
Blockages at the level of the physical body can become major distractions. Physical pain, lack of mobility, disease, or fatigue can be significant obstacles on the path to Self-realization. The healthier your life style, the less likely you will be distracted by physical problems. The Taoist sages of ancient times placed great value on health and longevity since they believed it took many years to reach Self-realization.
Adopting a life style that minimizes the barriers to Self-realization provides you with clarity of mind, clarity of body, and a relationship with the World that is marked by harmony. Clarity of mind brings you self-understanding, serenity, and an increased ability to focus attention. Clarifying your body will improve your health, vitality, and mood. Living in harmony with the world will benefit your health, safety, and friendships.