Tag Archives: struggle

On Struggle and Bliss


For the last two months my yoga teacher Rainey was using the koshas as the lens for our yoga practice. The idea is that there are five of these sheaths or layers, and the innermost one is the anandamayakosha. Ananda is often translated as “bliss”, which I find very difficult to access. I will get back to this in a moment. Rainey likes to translate it as “unreasonable joy” – that is, joy that is unbounded, unconditional, without any cause. And even that is hard for me to get to. I’ve been working with the idea of satisfaction, rather than bliss, joy, or happiness, because it’s much easier for me to be clear about whether or not I’m satisfied. And often, satisfaction brings contentment, which is a flavor of happiness/joy/bliss. I love that in French one says Je suis contente to say, “I am happy.”

That is the foundation. Rainey suggested at the beginning of a class what we might do to reveal that innermost kosha, so that it remained undiminished. I have been working the last several weeks on noticing when I’m telling stories (which are often lies) about my own experience. I often skip feeling the emotion and go right into interpretation and storytelling, which ironically has the effect of keeping me in that feeling (and is often downright unpleasant). I realized that when I can let go of the story about the feeling and just experience the feeling, it dissolves rather quickly. Pema Chodron explains it this way:

When you give your full attention to your knee or your back or your head—whatever hurts—and drop the good/bad, right/wrong story line and simply experience the pain directly for even a short time, then your ideas about the pain, and often the pain itself, will dissolve.

It is the stories I tell myself that create the struggle (c.f. first paragraph on “bliss”). When Rainey said undiminished, I heard in my mind undefined. Can I just let my experience be, without telling any stories around it? And can I find that satisfying? And will that reveal that inner joy/satisfaction/bliss that much more?

How about you?

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The Key to Destruction

skull handles

I have intense, vivid dreams. They could almost be movies, they are so involved. I know, there is a rule somewhere that no one on the internet is interested in hearing about your dreams, so don’t share them. So, you’ve been warned. I’m going to tell you about a dream I had.

I was running down a stairwell, down down down. Running away from people who were chasing me. And in my hand I held an elaborate skeleton key. This wasn’t any old key. Oh no. It was The Key to Destruction. MY destruction. And in order to be saved, all I had to do was release the key. I merely had to open my hand and the people pursuing me would stop. But here’s the kicker. Do you want to know what this key unlocked? A small cupboard with a picture of Salvador Dali on his high school football team.

I often think of this dream, of how hard it is for me to release the clutching, the grasping, even when it might be destroying me. I was reminded of the quote: Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. I might amend that to: Pain is inevitable, struggling is optional. I am getting help in identifying these thought patterns that no longer serve me. I am holding the vision that I will open my hand and when I see my fingers curling back in, I can gently uncurl them again.

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