The Enlightening Mat: Love vs. Self-Realization

Crater Lake, Beth Hemmila

Love is simply the training wheels for self-realization.
- Beth Hemmila

Romantic love, familial love, or any form in between feels like a little raindrop of happiness compared with the tidal wave of bliss that happens when living from a place of wholeness or more accurately self-realization. For me, opening the door to wholeness has taken a couple years of Bikram yoga practice, meditation, thinking, and reading, but I see now that all those things were distractions, and I was dancing around what was already there.

Self-Realization is the knowing in all parts of body, mind, 
and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom 
of God; that you do not have to pray that it comes to you; 
that God's omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that 
all that you need to do is improve your knowing.
- Pramahansa Yogananda

When the moment dawned on me, it felt like I had been sitting on top of a treasure that I hadn't noticed was there, and instead of getting caught up in figuring out how to open it, I just let it unfold all by itself. Here I was always trying to crack the secret code because nobody I knew could explain what self-realization felt like or looked like so I couldn't picture how to get there. Maybe that's the point. Perhaps the understanding of wholeness comes to each person differently and getting there is part of the magic.

Self-realization started dawning on me one day last fall as I was staring at my face in the mirror during class at Bikram Sierra Yoga. My head was swimming in the intense heat and humidity, and I felt completely exhausted. There in my face I started to see a slide show of pictures that were meant only for me. Tiny snapshots that kept registering in my mind and then flickering away -- a forest, seaweed, a mountain, apples, snowflakes, a girl with her dog, a painting, a sunset, etc. -- and it went on and on like that for several minutes. I wanted to cry because each picture was so utterly beautiful, but I was stunned into silence and just keep watching.

I was feeling this sense that everything out there was also in me. Every "perfect" or "imperfect," "happy" or "sad, "beautiful" or "ugly' thing or moment was also a part of my body. I suppose this could sound sort of vain or conceited. But it didn't feel that way. It didn't feel like ownership over these things out in the world. Rather it felt more like being the unknowing receiver of all these gifts. I was incredibly humbled by the experience and looking at a rock, the sun, and a bowl of soup all took on new meaning.

Picture going outside and picking up a bird's feather and thinking, "I am here to receive this gift, and I know I am enormously lucky to be a part of this moment," and then feel that immense sense of gratitude for the experience. Now string all those millions of seconds of gratitude from your day into one long song, and you can begin to imagine how this emotional ride could feel like the biggest tidal wave you've ever ridden.

After this experience in the yoga room, nothing has stayed the same. The world seems to float in a sea of gifts that are endless. The love I felt before feels like it was the training wheels on my bike of self-realization. I see now that the love I expressed in relationship to others was me practicing, examining, and playing it safe :)

The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.

To shop for yoga charms that celebrate the different poses click here to view this blog post Sterling Silver Charms for Bikram Yoga Postures.

1 comment:

  1. thank you beth, for being so open in talking about this amazing experience... you so eloquently stated something so very important in the final sentence of your first paragraph... we think of different practices as keys... while it isn't constant (and perhaps that is because mindfulness falters), i do know that feeling of being so open you vibrate... that you feel as if your edges blur and are one with everything - which you are energetically and scientifically... but to feel that physically is a heady experience... i look forward to feeling it for longer periods of time - and i celebrate this awakening for you...


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