I have been practicing Yoga Nidra for some little time now – around six months. It has now become my “go to” daily practice for maintenence of health and well being. It is a practice I love. I find it challenging but not in any stressful way. The challenge is really about trust and allowing. It is more about learning “not to do” rather than doing.
What is Yoga Nidra? – It is a little known but ancient meditation technique. It is a series of body, breath and awareness techniques designed to guide you into and experience of effortless awakening.
In this article I will be sharing with you the following aspects of the Why of Yoga Nidra.. The reason I will focus on “The Why” rather than “The How” is because I want to ensure that you are made aware of the deep power of this practice in relation to how it impacts your totalily rather than simply as a series of body, breath and awareness techniques.
Therefore I will invite you to learn about: –
This will, I hope inspire you to explore Yoga Nidra so that you can experience a deeper understanding of the patterns of thought, emotion and reactivity that drive the direction of your life. Yoga Nidra allows you, in practical ways to Companion YOUR Greatness.
So let us now begin our exploration of the “what” and “why” of Yoga Nidra.
The Philosophy of Yoga Nidra
The word ‘philosophy’ translates as “Love of Wisdom.” The wisdom you are invited to Love is the wisdom within. This is so that in the words of the poet Anna Ahkmatova you can wonderfully declare: –
The Secret of Secrets is inside me again.
This Secret of Secrets is always inside you, but like Sleeping Beauty who sleeps in the Tower of the personal sense of the separate self, you remain unaware of the Beauty that you are. Do not equate this experience of Beauty with the idea of being glamorous.
So Yoga Nidra is a practical technique that invites you to return and experience in full the beauty that you are and are created to KNOW and BE.
The Why of Yoga Nidra
So why bother to practice Yoga Nidra? Why was this ancient technique of meditation designed? What is the foundational reason it has been around for over four thousand years and more?
When I share why this is be aware that to begin with it may simply be more information.
This information is not likely, at this stage, to be transformational. Simply allow your reading of it to recognize that it is pointing to something you might really want to directly experience.
The poet Derek Walcott points toward this Why of Yoga Nidra experience when he writes: –
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
This experience of “feasting on your life” is pointed to in the philosophy of Yoga Nidra and invited as a direct experience of the practice.
The foundational purpose of Yoga Nidra can be stated in various ways. Essential it is the invitation to “Know Thyself.” The word ‘know’ is not to be understood as “knowing about” yourself. Yoga Nidra invites you to know yourself as the container rather than the contents.
The modern mystic Thomas Merton writes widely on the need to KNOW the distinction between “the false self” and the “True Self.”
What is the True Self?
The True Self has a number of qualities: –
- The True Self is Eternal.
- The True Self is Unconditional Love.
- The True Self is Witness Consciousness.
- The True Self is KNOWING.
This KNOWING the truth of who you are is the purpose of Yoga Nidra. This is its full potential. Without at least being made aware of this full potential you will simply practice Yoga Nidra as if it were a mere practice of spiritual napping.
The True Self as Eternal
What if you could KNOW, not simply as a belief, but as a direct revelatory experience that there was no death? Do you not think that this would radically change how you view this world of time and space? This of course does not mean that the body does not die. This dying of the body is assured in this dimension of time and space.
The promise of a committed Yoga Nidra practice is to KNOW that you are an expression of eternity within the limitation of time. Eternity is not an experience of infinite time as most people understand it to be in a conceptual way.
Those who have directly experience eternity KNOW that it is an experience outside of time while living within the dimension of time. Don’t try and understand this intellectually. It is an experience of dying into Life while alive in the body. As the modern mystic Eckhart Tolle declares in The Power of Now – Guide to Enlightenment: –
Die before you die so that you KNOW there is no death – Eckhart Tolle.
What dies is the idea of you as being a separate personality and form. This does not mean that you personally die or that the person you think you are disappears. It means that the Presence of the One Life of which you are a part, but never apart from, is KNOWN to be your Essence – your True Self.
This is not a belief you adopt but the flow of the living water of KNOWING that you move from. You move from belief to KNOWING. This KNOWING is invited through the practice of Yoga Nidra
Be still and KNOW that I AM – Psalm 46:10
The True Self as Unconditional Love
Have you ever felt that there was something missing from life even when it appears that you have everything that you might want or are supposed to want?
This is the unspoken and often unrecognized longing for union with Source Energy. This is the longing to meet again the one who has loved you all your life and knows you by heart (Love After Love).
The True Self is the direct experience of unconditional Love. To directly experience this is a great Grace. You don’t earn this by way of effort but you still have to make the effort. You could never earn this magnificence. It is just so astonishing and beyond words.
One thing is certain. From this grace experience of union with the True Self you, as the personal self, will absolutely want everyone else to have what you have been given. For one glorious moment you have glimpsed what it is to feel in unity with Source Energy.
You will want to share this experience with everyone. You KNOW you are blessed and can bless (Vacillation W. B. Yeats)
Yoga Nidra is the premier technique in learning how to enter these states of NON-DOING where you learn to surrender to the One Life that has loved you all your life and KNOWS you by heart. From this experience you feast on your life. You invite those who have this longing to the banquet of infinite creative potential.
This is the foundation of the Yoga Nidra experience. You can opt for less but those who have been graced attendance at the feast of the True Self want you to know what is really on offer.
Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions – Hafiz.
The cheapest room in the mansion of the True Self is the identification with the personal mind and limitations of the form of the body. With this very limited focus you search in the world of time and space for the Love you are.
You swap rags for riches. You become a King/Queen who can be tricked by the dualistic personal mind into imagining they are wearing the most beautiful suit of clothes (the personality) when in fact they are naked (absent of Presence and the True Self). It takes the innocence of a young child (unconditioned by thought) to point out the reality that your false self has no real substance (is wearing no clothes)
The True Self as Witness
You are not who you think you are although this is exactly who you think you are. Your primary identity is with the overthinking voice in your head. This is a key aspect of the false self. It tells you who you think you are and who you should be
It is never really happy. It doesn’t know contentment. It doesn’t know peace of mind. It is an unending dialogue that sucks the life out of you and the primary cause of both personal and collective human suffering.
So who are you in truth if you are not this incessant desire creating thinking machine that you can’t switch off and rarely recognize as the source of most of your discontent? The answer is that you are the awareness that is beyond this thinking, feeling and sensing. You are not the contents of the mind/body but the space within which the contents are able to manifest.
Let me try and illustrate this with an example.
These are the Clouds about the fallen Sun the majesty that shuts his burning Eye – W. B. Yeats
Imagine that you are living under a cloud. You have forgotten what it is like to know the feel of the Sun warm upon your face. The clouds one day lift and you become aware of something beyond clouds. The clouds represent the cover of your overthinking personal mind. The truth of who you are is the Sky.
Do not take this literally. You are the choiceless awareness in which thought, feeling and sensation move.
When you were seven years old you had a body, you had feelings and sensations. You grow up to be 21 years old. You have a different body, different thoughts and different sensations. Now you are thirty-five years old. You see yourself different from the seven-year-old and the twenty-one-year-old.
Yet throughout all these changes down the years something never changes. This is the fact that you are aware. Notice that at whatever age you are your awareness still is the same. This is, metaphorically the infinite sky that you are and always are. You are the container and not the contents.
Without awareness (the sky) you are always living under a cloud – the over identification with the thoughts, feelings and sensations of the body that are the sum of your personal identity. You remain unaware of the glory of the Sun that is your True Self. To become directly aware of this Sun experience is what is referred to as Spiritual Awakening.
The True Self as Knowing
The word KNOWING is not the same as knowledge in the same way that the word intellect is not the same as the word intelligence. Most knowledge is second or third hand information. KNOWING is where you are informed from SOURCE. It is your direct personal experience arising from connection to the transpersonal.
This kind of KNOWING tends to be transformational. It changes your world view in an expansive way. KNOWING and you can’t exist together. You and KNOWING are the same and separate at the same time. You, the little personal sense of the separate self is informed by the infinite Universal Self.
This can’t happen when you are so over identified with the persona (the mask) and the madness of the overthinking personal mind. Yoga Nidra teaches you the paradoxical practice of effortless awakening. You cannot become a KNOWER through effort.
You have to learn the art of effortlessly awakening. You learn to relax into infinity and Eternity. It is out of this infinite sky of KNOWING that you will find true direction and purpose for life. In the words of a well-known Beatles song you learn to, “Let it Be.” Life that created you absolutely KNOWS how to BE through you would that you learn to get out of the way.
The Why of Yoga Nidra Summary
So that, I hope gives you a very brief overview of the “Why of Yoga Nidra.” In the opinion of this writer knowing “the why” is essential because it determines the extent to which the potential of this practice can manifest through you.
If you are simply invited to know the practice of Yoga Nidra as a technique of deep relaxation then you will not be best served by those who have not made the full invitation to feast on your life known to you. You will miss your birth right in KNOWING the radiance of your astonishing Being.
At this stage all that you might now have is information that is food for the intellect. At least now you have the choice. You can practice Yoga Nidra at different levels. At whatever level you practice there will be benefits and there will be challenges.
The rest of this Yoga Nidra section of this website shares the benefits, the steps and the challenges that are all part of the path of Yoga Nidra. I hope that you are encouraged to take the journey into this wonderful practice of Effortlessly Awakening. Let it be so.