#5 Abundance of Joy
5) Experiencing our wondrous self leads to an
abundance of joy and goodness.
“What did the Yoga Guru say to the hot dog vendor?”
Answer: “Make me one with everything.”
Good joke. But this is, in fact, kind of the way we feel when we’re most happy–one with everything.
The great gurus of Yoga and other Eastern traditions achieve inner peace and experience the ultimate joy in life by cultivating the boundless wonder of a child. For them every moment is the occasion for innocent amazement, even in the middle of the most trying circumstances. They still experience all the ordinary pain and difficulty of being human. They just process it differently.
There are certain types of experiences that can suddenly thrust anyone into truly appreciating the utter joy of being alive. The most dramatic example is a serious illness or a near-death experience, in which we are suddenly on the verge of NOT being alive. Another example is temporary blindness. Imagine being blind for a while and suddenly being able to see.
But we can also be moved to this kind of ultimate appreciation of being alive by great music, or overpowering natural beauty, or reading about an amazing scientific discovery, or by the experience of great art.
I’m relatively new to Yoga, but in a way not so new if the subject is “transcendent consciousness” rather than Yoga itself. One of the reasons I’m so attracted to Yoga is that I’ve had semi-ecstatic “one-with-the-universe” experiences all my life. They are like the experiences Cope describes in his book as the initial basis for his interest in Yoga, but far more plentiful. I seem to be prone to them, in fact, with or without Yoga. I consider this a great blessing.
I’ve had them in music, in nature, in literature, in relationships, in tennis, occasionally in religion, in business, in my family, in windsurfing (especially in windsurfing, where one must focus intently on the wind and the angle of the sail for hours at a time), etc.
I know Yoga is a new and different kind of pursuit, but I believe it is closely related to, and encompassing of, these other experiences I’ve had with transcendent consciousness.
The practice of Yoga seeks to make this type of ecstatic, wonder-filled, one-with-the-universe consciousness commonplace and readily available in our everyday lives. In a nutshell, it seeks to give us unlimited joy. (Sound ambitious enough?)
Yoga knows it doesn’t have a monopoly on this kind of joy, of course. Yoga assumes itself to have discovered universal truths. If you look at almost any moment of pure joy it usually has this character of
total absorption in the present moment, where all other concerns and preoccupations fade into insignificance.
So it’s not surprising that one can come up with countless examples of Yoga-type present-focused joy in every aspect of human life. Yoga is just a powerful way of discovering and exploring this aspect of our existence. Yoga didn’t invent it.
That’s the joy part. What about the “goodness” part. Why would all this self-absorbed consciousness-raising necessarily lead to goodness?
Yoga scriptures have strong and clear moral teachings, which are similar to any religion’s. Yoga assumes that when we see ourselves and the universe in their true natural wonder, we will be moved to act in a highly moral way. We are much more likely to do the right thing in any circumstance if we see ourselves, our fellow human beings, and the entire universe as wondrous, divine and inseparable.