Here I am once again at the Yoga Retreat on Paradise Island. I see the clear turquoise ocean, the luscious vegetation, the bay bathed in light and feel that I have really arrived in paradise.
Nature has a way of healing and anyone having tended a garden knows it. Our inner elements become in tune with the sun, the water, the earth, the air and the space and we feel balanced and at peace for a while.
This state of harmony evoked by nature is the aim of all true religions and spiritual disciplines. By drawing a map of the road to follow they point the way back to a state of wholeness and fulfillment, back to the mythical Garden of Eden, lost but never forgotten. However, the entry into paradise is not easy. Remember how Yaveh put two cherubims with flaming swords to guard the entrance? These mighty guardians are none other than our sense of duality and our attachment to our likes and dislikes which block our entry into the garden. The price we pay for holding on to our desires and aversions is very high indeed, nothing less than being excluded from paradise with its abundance, bliss and delight. This is our painful predicament: on the one hand, we strive to find freedom and happiness by all means and, on the other, we do not let go of our mental and emotional baggage that impedes our freedom. And yet, the 3rd Patriarch of Zen in his verses of Affirming Faith in Mind says:
The great Way is not difficult for those who do not pick and choose. When preferences are cast aside the Way stands clear and undisguised. But even slight distinctions made set heaven and earth far apart. If you would clearly see the truth, discard opinions pro and con. To founder in dislike and like is nothing but the mind’s disease And not to see the Way’s deep truth disturbs the mind’s essential peace.
How simple these instructions are and yet how difficult to put them into practice! How can I discard opinions pro and con when I am constantly presented with choices and everything I think, say and do is colored by the filters of desire and aversion, hope and fear?
Taming the mind is no easy task but Yoga shows the way. First we become aware of our state and we decide to make a few lifestyle changes by slowly replacing certain habits by more healthy ones. Then we turn within to get to know our mind better and we learn to concentrate and meditate. Raja Yoga, one of the paths of Yoga, offers a systematic step by step method to disentangle our mind from dualism in order to discover our inherent attributes: infinite bliss, supreme peace and unbroken joy.
And when happiness and contentment seem unattainable and the doors to paradise remain closed, please remember the biblical flaming swords. They are the reminders of the difficulty of the task which requires time, faith, strength and determination. But the good news is that the Way has been paved before us by great beings who have left us their teachings, their wisdom and the inspiration of their examples.
This is why I am here again. I’m knocking again on Heaven’s door hoping that with the blessings of the Masters I’ll recover that which was never lost.