The Enlightening Mat: The Organizing Principle


Don't push the river, it flows by itself.
- Chinese proverb

When a flower blooms, how much work is involved? Does it open effortlessly? Is the action equivalent to taking a breath or blinking your eyes? I'd like to imagine the flower is completely at ease and opening its face to the sun is no different then awakening in the morning and opening your eyes from a deep sleep.

This same sense of effortlessness is ever present within each of us. Some teachers call it awareness while others refer to it as the One Who Knows or the Organizing Principle. Whatever words you choose to describe this sense, I'm guessing at some point you have tapped into the bigger part of yourself that knows just where your next step is going to land before it happens and feels utterly safe with all outcomes.

Just like a river, this Organizing Principle flows without end underneath your need to eat, sleep, work, connect, converse, exercise, play, entertain, etc. You never have to do a thing to make this flow happen, it's always there ready for you to awaken to it.

How do I Awaken to the Organizing Principle?

Picture your small self painted on a large piece of glass that we will call awareness. This awareness is pure, clear, and unstained, and it infuses everything. It is always present, even when what people see is the "you" carefully painted on the glass, even when all that you yourself see is the  painted "you" on the glass, with no idea of the awareness underneath it all.

If you are able to hold this picture in your mind of the Organizing Principle, your ease with the world or awareness, as a piece of glass and your personality and all its stories as a painting on the glass, then what next? How can you become more attuned to this glass beneath the painting of your identity? What can you do to move in accord with it?

One of the places I get in touch with this metaphor of the Organizing Principle is in the Bikram yoga classroom. There I am standing in front of a gigantic piece of glass -- a mirror -- where I can choose to look at my reflection -- the painting of my personality on the mirror -- or I can choose to SEE with bigger eyes the whole piece of glass.

Sometimes during my Bikram yoga practice I haven't wanted to look in the mirror so I stand at the back of the class, other times I've tried to be such a perfectionist that I stand right in the front row, stare at my body and pick apart all the problems I want to correct. I'm too fat. I need to smile more. I've got to fix those cottage cheese thighs. There's a whole lot of self-judgments that run through my head when I look in any mirror. However, these are all stories my mind is creating and attaching to my personality -- the small self painted on the big piece of glass. I can choose to get caught up in these stories about myself that may or may not be true, but what I'm really doing is running away from the big self that's sitting right in front of me -- the totality of the mirror or the glass of my awareness, the Organizing Principle.

How can you learn to see the bigger glass of your awareness? For me, when I hear stories, judgments, criticisms, comparisons, or complaints running through my head while I look in the mirror, I simply say the word "story" to myself and let go of the dialogue. I do that each time I notice these stories happening in my head. Just by reminding myself what I am thinking is a "story" -- a product of my mind and strategy for my ego to keep its beliefs intact -- I can more easily let go and see the bigger glass reflecting the whole room back at me.

This bigger glass is the part of me that senses the breath of each person, the words flowing from the teacher's mouth, the movement happening around me, and the emotional landscape that we are creating together within the Bikram yoga classroom. These are senses that are all inclusive and give me the ability to awaken to what is beyond the greying hair, crooked shoulders, and belly roll staring back at me from the mirror, so I begin to see the interconnected awareness that is weaving itself together on the big sheet of glass.

Choosing to notice my thoughts, label it "story," and let it pass through my mind without action or reaction, I've begun to see that I stop pushing and fighting against the flow of everything happening around me and give in to the natural ease and safety that exists within the room.

I find this experience happening more and more frequently for me in the Bikram yoga classroom. My body makes smaller movements. I want less water and my thinking suspends for brief periods of time. Doing Bikram yoga over and over again creates a natural environment for creating a relationship with the Organizing Principle -- the pure ease that exists beneath everything we do. 

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. your practice and awareness are really helping you to transcend so much... as you wrote about this in your yoga practice, it seems as if yoga is like meditation to you... the interrupting thoughts are being recognized as something not of yourself, but created by the self... how do you feel about this? is yoga meditation to you? i know thich nhat hanh tells us that anything can be meditation...i feel like you are destined to be a teacher at omega or something...


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