By OM Matters Founder, Tambra Wayne
One reason I'm attracted to the yoga philosophy outlined in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras is that it teaches us that a “heaven-like” state, samādhi, can be experienced here and now. Samādhi is the 8th limb of Patañjali's 8 Limbs of Yoga. It is described as the bringing together of the entire yoga practice leading us to a state in which we truly know and feel that everything is interconnected. We are one! In this state our minds are free of the incessant clinging to what we should or shouldn’t be/do/feel and there is only the experience of indescribable joy. Sounds beautiful, right? But what does samādhi really mean?
I imagine that I have experienced glimpses of samādhi in various times in my life. Once in the late 1990’s the company I was working for at the time had a team building retreat in the Idyllwild mountains in southern California. Our entire 30-person office went on the retreat. We camped overnight and the next morning we rock climbed. 99% of our group had never rock climbed before this trip. Needless to say, it is a very intimidating sport, especially if one has a fear of heights. When it was my turn, I was so focused on the present, nothing else was on my mind except for concentrating on the next instruction the professional guide (or as we called him, Mighty Mountain Guide) gave me to climb up the mountain. And, what was more amazing, was I truly felt the love and support generated from my office family below who was cheering me on. I can’t explain what a wonderful feeling it was to face my fears with the support from people I love. It was the best feeling!
Another time I felt this was on my wedding day in 2013. Again, I was so focused on the present moment, experiencing the beautiful ceremony that joined the man of my dreams and me together. And again, I was surrounded by people that I love dearly---many of whom were with me during the rock climbing adventure nearly 15 years earlier—and who love and support me in one of the most joyful moments of my life. I felt that indescribable joy that no words could truly explain.
How ethical principles help us achieve samādhi
How can I experience these moments on a more regular basis? In more “normal” day-to-day activities and to feel the love and connection with all beings, not just those I know personally. Therein is where the practice lies. In his book Yoga for a World out of Balance, Michael Stone explains that one way this may be achieved is through practicing the 1st limb of the 8 limbs of yoga, the yamas. These are the ethical principles that clarify our relationship to the world and encourage us to be kind, honest and generous to ourselves and all living beings. The illusion that we are separate from others will fade and we see clearly that every thought we have and action we take does matter. By practicing these teachings deeply and consistently we can feel our interconnectedness with our planet and all beings—that is samādhi.