Eckhart Tolle starts his book The Power of Now with a striking story about a beggar who asks a man passing him for some change. The man then answers that he has nothing to give and asks him what he is sitting on. The beggar replies that it is just an old wooden box. The man asks him if he ever opened it and the beggar says no, because there is nothing in it. The man then insists that he opens the box, the beggar opens the box and discovers that he has been sitting on a box of gold all his life. Today I am that man in your life. I am going to ask you to open your box and to look inside.
Most of us get up every morning, we go to the bathroom and we look in the mirror at the image which is reflected back at us, thinking this is me. While brushing your hair you look in the mirror and think, look what I am doing or you do your make-up thinking I am going to look so beautiful today. The image in the mirror is you and without thinking twice you will confirm it to anybody who will ask you who is that in the mirror and you will most probably say it is me, so and so. And everyday we will repeat the same old story over and over until one day.
That image in the mirror is not you, it is only a reflection. The moment you walk away from the mirror that image is gone and has no reality anymore, because it wasn’t really you, it was only a reflection, an illusion or maya, which was created by the play of light. Problem is most of us walk away from the mirror still thinking about that image in the mirror, identifying with it, thinking that image in the mirror, that is who I am.
This identification with an image which is un-real, an illusion is how most people spent their whole life. They think this body, the outer reflection of the inner Truth is real, without realising that the outside is just a reflection. Once we have completed our journey with the outer vehicle (the body) the true Self (call it soul, spirit, divine spark within etc) will leave this earthly plain behind, and then the realisation dawns upon the Self that it was all the time only a reflection, an illusion.
People will say, but I feel my body, so how can it be an illusion? Yes, it is true, we perceive and experience our outer world through our five senses and while in the body it is a condition of existence to experience the world through the body. However, what I propose here is that people think the body is also the true Self. Yes, people will say I have a soul, but do they realise who is the soul? Can you bring yourself to the point to stop thinking that I am a body and soul, but that I am God?
How can yoga help you to realise your true Self – the I AM?
Firstly, the practice of yoga is designed to bring awareness from the outer sensory world within to the inner metaphysical world through various practises such as yoga nidra, pratyahara (see article on the eight limbs of yoga) and meditation.
Secondly, yoga teaches you to detach from the physical (all our desires and attachments which cause so much pain) and tune more into the metaphysical or inner life. Part of the yamas and niyamas is to get our desires under control, all part of yoga practise and discipline.
Thirdly, yoga teaches you how to control the mind and therefore the emotions. Most people are controlled by their mind and their emotions. They react in a certain way, because their mind tells them this is how you should react. Emotions are the body’s reaction to our constant thinking by the mind. Through meditation and yoga you can learn to bring the mind under the control of the true Self, you can stop the constant chattering of the mind and realise in that silent moment the I am that I am.