Samadhi is the last limb in Patanjali's eight branches of yoga. It means "that which is placed together." We have covered the other seven limbs to better understand how we even contemplate getting here: yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana and dhyana...to samadhi. Each branch divides into its own myriad of twigs and all together they show us the path to self knowledge and wisdom.
Judith Lasater uses the example of a grid when describing samadhi. She says to imagine there is a mesh grid in front of you that is made out of your beliefs and your gender and your history and so it filters your perceptions based on these biases and labels.
"The grid is the sum total of our beliefs—conscious and unconscious—about reality. Samadhi is the state in which we no longer experience reality through a grid; instead, we experience reality directly... Samadhi is the state in which you are aware on a cellular level of the underlying oneness of the universe." Judith Lasater
When asked, "Do you teach your disciples any specific technique for attaining samadhi?", Sri Chinmoy responds, "No. Samadhi is a very high state of consciousness. If the beginner comes to kindergarten and asks the teacher how he can study for his Master's degree, the teacher will simply laugh. He will say, "How can I tell you?" Before we are ready to try to attain samadhi, we have to go through many, many, many inner spiritual experiences."
There seem to be different levels of samadhi as well as different types. In savikalpa samadhi, one can lose track of time in a state where the meditator and object transcend being separate and, instead, become as one. As for nirvikalpa samadhi, Sri Chinmoy writes, "you see the universe as a tiny dot inside your vast heart."
Specifically, the Yoga Sutras state the following concerning samadhi, as best as one can translate the Sanskrit into English:
"Sutra 3.3: “Samadhi is deep absorption on the object without thought of the self. Then, the essential nature of the object shines forth.”
Sutra 3.4: “The practice of these three (dharana, dhyana and samadhi) when applied to an object is called samyama (perfectly controlled).”
Sutra 3.5: “Through mastery of samyamah, knowledge born of intuitive insight shines forth.”
The following poem is considered a gifted revelation by Swami Kriyananda, that its author, Yogananada, was able to be in a state of cosmic consciousness and then actually verbalize it for others to read.
by Paramhansa Yogananda
Vanished the veils of light and shade,
Lifted every vapor of sorrow,
Sailed away all dawns of fleeting joy,
Gone the dim sensory mirage.
Love, hate, health) disease, life, death,
Perished these false shadows on the screen of duality.
Waves of laughter, scyllas of sarcasm, melancholic whirlpools,
Melting in the vast sea of bliss.
The storm of maya stilled
By magic wand of intuition deep.
The universe, forgotten dream, subconsciously lurks,
Ready to invade my newly wakened memory divine.
I live without the cosmic shadow,
But it is not, bereft of me;
As the sea exists without the waves,
But they breathe not without the sea.
Dreams, wakings, states of deep turiya sleep,
Present, past, future, no more for me,
But ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere.
Planets, stars, stardust, earth,
Volcanic bursts of doomsday cataclysms,
Creation’s molding furnace,
Glaciers of silent x-rays, burning electron floods,
Thoughts of all men, past, present, to come,
Every blade of grass, myself, mankind,
Each particle of universal dust,
Anger, greed, good, bad, salvation, lust,
I swallowed, transmuted all
Into a vast ocean of blood of my own one Being!
Smoldering joy, oft-puffed by meditation
Blinding my tearful eyes,
Burst into immortal flames of bliss,
Consumed my tears, my frame, my all.
Thou art I, I am Thou,
Knowing, Knower, Known, as One!
Tranquilled, unbroken thrill, eternally living, ever new peace!
Enjoyable beyond imagination of expectancy, samadhi bliss!
Not a mental chloroform
Or unconscious state without willful return,
Samadhi but extends my conscious realm
Beyond the limits of the mortal frame
To farthest boundary of eternity
Where I, the Cosmic Sea,
Watch the little ego floating in me.
The sparrow, each grain of sand, fall not without my sight.
All space like an iceberg floats within my mental sea.
Colossal Container, I, of all things made.
By deeper, longer, thirsty, guru-given meditation
Comes this celestial samadhi
Mobile murmurs of atoms are heard,
The dark earth, mountains, vales, lo! molten liquid!
Flowing seas change into vapors of nebulae!
Aum blows upon the vapors, opening wondrously their veils,
Oceans stand revealed, shining electrons,
Till, at last sound of the cosmic drum,**
Vanish the grosser lights into eternal rays
Of all-pervading bliss.
From joy I came, for joy I live, in sacred joy I melt.
Ocean of mind, I drink all creation’s waves.
Four veils of solid, liquid, vapor, light,
Myself, in everything, enters the Great Myself.
Gone forever, fitful, flickering shadows of mortal memory.
Spotless is my mental sky, below, ahead, and high above.
Eternity and I, one united ray.
A tiny bubble of laughter, I
Am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.
At the beginning, the very beginning of this year's winter, it became cold. And, we expected that because that is what is supposed to happen in Chicago. And then snow came. And we expected that, too. Mentally, we knew it was cold enough for water to freeze in mid-air and, emotionally, the snow really makes Thanksgiving and Christmas feel so near. We hope the energy of the bustle of those holidays carries us through January where we begin to look for the small stark "light at the end of the tunnel". But, this year, instead of seeing light, it got colder and colder and colder. A cold that knew no boundaries of how much we thought we could take. And then the snow came. Again and again and again. And, it too, seemed to over step its boundary as it covered our roads to freedom from house confinement. And, when physically confined, because the errand to Target in the freezing cold and slippery roads no longer seems like fun or of importance, we are stuck with our thoughts. We can easily become carried away by our thoughts and our daydreams, which is sometimes fine depending on the flavor of those thoughts and daydreams. Yummy ones can bring us inspiration and focus and intentions. The bitter flavored ones can trap us in gloom, which is why grounding is so important.
"‘Where are the men?’ the little prince asked, politely.
Men? She echoed. ‘ I think there are six or seven of them in existence. I saw them, several years ago. But one never knows where to find them. The wind blows them away. They have no roots, and that makes life very difficult.’.. " Antoine De Saint-Exupery
If you know you need grounding, sit somewhere quietly. But rather than rest the backs of your hands on your knees, turn your palms downward in ghyana mudra for more earth energy. Or stand in mountain and focus on the grounded energy being absorbed through your feet.
And so we moved from cold to snow to bitter cold to more snow to rain. I don't know about any other Chicagoan, but I found it depressing and almost too much to bear. My yoga always reminds me in those instances that I have the choice on how to react to the weather but sometimes, my human experience overtakes my spiritual.
"Last night the rain spoke to me
to come falling
out of a brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth
that what is said as it dropped,
smelling of iron, and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.
Then it was over. The sky cleared
I was standing under a tree.
and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves at the moment
at which moment my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars
and the soft rain--imagine! Imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours." by Mary Oliver (What Do We Know)
" Each beautiful thing, a flower, the song of a bird, awakens in our soul the memory of our origin.Learn how to listen to the voice of beautiful things,to make us understand the voice of our soul." Mevlevi Dervishes
What in the world does yoga have to do with trust?! It is an interesting result of our practice when we find that our self-trust grows as a result of time spent on the mat. Remember the first time you were introduced to headstand in a class? Did your mind instantly freak out in fear?! Probably so and then a variety of things could have happened: you stayed in a highly reactive fear mode and tried the pose, you stayed in this highly reactive fear mode and did not try the pose, you rationally tried to calm the mind from its fight or flight stance and tried the pose, or you did not try the pose or you tried prepping for it, in other words, did part of the pose, OR you tried the pose, fell out and then chastized yourself for trying it in the first place because you just knew you couldn't do it. Any of his sound about right? (Think I covered every option!)
At some point, we trust ourselves enough on the mat to try a pose or not based on our self-knowledge, self-trust and ahimsa (non-harming to the body). Fear no longer plays a part because we have our best interest at heart. Having said that, inversions come with an element of fear if you have not tried them. But, if you trust yourself and you trust your yoga instructor, and there isn't a physical reason you should not try the pose, I would encourage you to set fear aside. I love it when someone tells me they can't do a headstand because they have never done one or they are too old, and then we work through it on the mat and they get in headstand...they are so proud and excited when they finally come back down! But headstand is just an example. Tthis theme is not about sirasana; it is about trusting your inner Self.
"Self-trust means we have the confidence necessary to follow through and pursue things that feel right... self-trust is the most intimate way of expressing your trust in God and the universe. You are not a separate creation, remember, and you did not create yourself. Trusting yourself, therefore, is actually trusting in the intelligence of the Creator who made you. It is your personal demonstration of your trust in the universe and Infinite Mind, and your confidence will be well reinforced because of your ever-increasing sensitivity. This basic self-trust is the foundation of all yoga and the prevailing quality of those who have learned to be their own best teachers." Eric Schiffman
The Yoga Sutras refer to the five kleshas (obstacles of the mind) that perpetually get in our way. Should we overcome them, we become exposed, introduced, to our true nature. The five kleshas are:
Avidya – Ignorance based on misrepresentation of reality (maya); a disconnect from truth
Asmita – This is associating ourselves with our egos
Raga – Attachment to desire
Dwesha – Aversion to unpleasantness (this what causes us to react to difficult poses like headstand)
Abhinivesha – The fear of dying better described as "clinging ignorantly to life" (that puts a different spin on it, doesn't it?!) We cling to life for fear of loss; our attachment to what we know...raga
When we overcome these obstacles and meet our true selves, how could there be anything but self-trust? We have let go of our labels so we no longer have to question their truth. Self trust extends to an enriched trust of others.
Maya Angelou writes, " I do not trust people who don't love themselves and yet tell me, "I love you." There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt."
I found this last analogy online. I think this sums up what I have been rambling on about in a concise way.
"Trust is when you throw a baby into the air and she laughs because she trusts you will catch her."
Yoga is only partially about physical flexibility and strength. What yoga does for you mentally, spiritually and emotionally can only be experienced by you. So, I'm just saying, if you do not have that amount of trust in yourself, come to your yoga mat more.