Christian Yoga Part 2
Meeting the I AM
If you say to yourself, “I am tired. I am hungry. I am depressed. I am happy,” you are describing the changing conditions of your body and your mind. But if you say – “I am” – you are describing the fundamental part of you that experiences the changes. The ‘I AM’ is there all the time isn’t it, behind all changes? But it is as slippery as an eel to catch hold of. That is why the discipleship is needed. Instead of realising your naked ‘I AM’ you tend to see only your thoughts and emotions, your changing body again.
This – I AM – survives sleep. It survives the shifting world of your sensory impressions, your thoughts and emotions. It is the ever present awareness behind the experience of your life. It doesn’t change with the tides and calamities of events. This is the rock upon which Jesus suggested building your house, your dwelling place – while your sensory impressions, your thoughts and emotions are the shifting sands he warned against. It is within the awareness of this I AM that the conviction, not belief, in eternal existence lies. It is to the meeting with the I AM that Christian Yoga leads. When you experienced your ‘I AM’ in its nakedness, you KNOW you have existed throughout eternity. It is not a question of belief, or of being told. You experience yourself as an eternal being, standing beyond all the shifting winding paths of your body, your mind and feelings.
So, Christian Yoga does not lead to a set of rules, or to certain beliefs, but to an experience. When you meet that experience you can decide for yourself whether it is valid or not.
Meeting Your Eternal Self
So what is it like to meet this conviction of eternal existence, and what is the value of it? Why have people sacrificed so much for it?
It is easy to see that while you are convinced that your real identity is your body; while you are convinced that your emotions and thoughts are your only reality, you are incredibly vulnerable to uncertainties, fears, dashed hopes, feelings of failure, the emptiness of success and painful betrayals. These can toss you around like a scrap of paper in a gale. They can be the stress that is at the root of illness. Discovering yourself as anchored beyond change is enormously healing.
Although the I AM is beyond thought, beyond emotion and physical sense impressions, and at first appears to be an empty void – the Cloud of Unknowing as an early Christian mystic described it – it is like a spring from which can emerge healing of body and mind, creativity, intuitive perceptions, and all the gifts of the spirit described in the New Testament. (1 Corinthians 12:06-13).
The following dream and waking experience give an impression of what it is like to meet this essence of human life. The dream is taken from the writings of J. B. Priestley from his book Rain Upon Godshill:
‘Just before I went to America, during the exhausting weeks when I was busy with my Time Plays, I had a dream, and I think it left a greater impression on my mind than any experience I had ever known before, awake or in dreams, and said more to me about this life than any book I have ever read. The setting of the dream was quite simple, and owed something to the fact that not long before, my wife had visited the lighthouse here at St Catherine’s to do some bird ringing.
I dreamt I was standing at the top of a very high tower, alone, looking down upon myriads of birds all flying in one direction; every kind of bird was there, all the birds in the world. It was a noble sight, this vast aerial river of birds. But now in some mysterious fashion the gear was changed, and time speeded up, so that I saw generations of birds, watched them break their shells, flutter into life, mate, weaken, falter and die. Wings grew only to crumble; bodies were sleek, and then, in a flash bled and shrivelled; and death struck everywhere at every second. What was the use of all this blind struggle towards life, this eager trying of wings, this hurried mating, this flight and surge, all this gigantic meaningless effort?
As I stared down, seeming to see every creature’s ignoble little history almost at a glance, I felt sick at heart. It would be better if not one of them, if not one of us, had been born, if the struggle ceased forever. I stood on my tower, still alone, desperately unhappy. But now the gear was changed again, and the time went faster still, and it was rushing by at such a rate, that the birds could not show any movement, but were like an enormous plain sown with feathers. But along this plain, flickering through the bodies themselves, there now passed a sort of white flame, trembling, dancing, then hurrying on; and as soon as I saw it I knew that this white flame was life itself, the very quintessence of being; and then it came to me, in a rocket burst of ecstasy, that nothing mattered, nothing could ever matter, because nothing else was real but this quivering and hurrying lambency of being. Birds, men and creatures not yet shaped and coloured, all were of no account except so far as this flame of life travelled though them. It left nothing to mourn over behind it; what I had thought was tragedy was mere emptiness or a shadow show; for now all real feeling was caught and purified and danced on ecstatically with the white flame of life. I had never before felt such deep happiness as I knew at the end of my dream of the tower and the birds.’
Priestly tells us that not only did his meeting with Life itself change his whole perspective, but he knew deep happiness. What he describes is what the Christians called Spirit.
The Meeting that Transforms
The following personal experience happened while fully awake, but it did have powerful inner imagery with it. A group of us were meeting each week in ‘an upper room’ to surrender to the action of the spirit. The week prior to this experience I had been deeply impressed that I had blood on my hands; that I had in some way killed someone.
I was standing with others by the side of a dusty unpaved road. People were excitedly waiting for someone, and I was curious to see who it was.
It was a man, and as he walked the road he saw me and came toward me.
The man was ordinary in appearance, but as he got near to me it seemed as if a great force surrounded him that penetrated me completely. The force was love, buffeting me like waves I could barely tolerate. The man stood before me and took my hands and said, “You are my disciple.”
At this, love so immense touched me that I fell backwards, the contact too painful for me to bear, and the man walked on.
I knew who he was. I also knew, because it was welling up from within me as sure knowledge, that he was the man I had killed. It was his blood I had on my hands. It was his death I felt guilty of. But he, in some strange paradoxical way, was myself. He was the cosmic mystery I have been born as. He was the very best of myself I had killed, murdered. He was my youthful sexuality I had suffocated to death, helped by the tenets of a religion that was supposed to be teaching his way, the way of life, the way of recognising one’s cosmic link. (See Meetings With Christ).
Not only is there a changed perspective of life when we meet the I Am – the centre of your being – not only do we feel a radiant happiness, we also meet love.