Updated: Apr 3
"When carving stone, the sculptor removes everything that is not the statue...the art of reveling beauty lies in removing what conceals it. So, too, Patajali (in the yoga sutras) tell us that wholeness exists within us. Our work is to chisel away at everything that is not essence, not Self. -Judith Hanson Lasater
Merriam-Webster defines essence as: the most significant element, quality, or aspect of a thing or person. So what is your essence? the most significant element or quality that make you, YOU?
When I began my yoga teaching career I worked with a mentor who posed this question to me. My immediate response was to describe my role as a mother, wife, daughter and friend; she quickly pointed out to me that those are merely things I do, none of them are my essence or true Self. I was sent back to do further homework, to further explore this question I thought this was so easy to answer, but as I went through the exercise I began to realize how I had become lost in my "roles" and as such had lost the connection to my essence. I remember staring blankly into the face of my mentor as I came to this realization and said to her, 'how can I teach if I don't even understand myself?' I will never forget her answer as I do it several times a day...'stay true to yourself, and if you ever doubt, look within, your true self lies within.'
We all get lost in our roles in life, I'm not quite sure when it happens, but we begin to define ourselves by our college major, our career title, that we are so-and-so's spouse or parent. Somehow the lines of our essence begin blurred with the roles we play in life.
So how do we chisel away at all those things that are not US? One of the most powerful ways is through meditation, ( I can hear the UGH's from here!) Here's the thing about meditation...it can be two minutes or two hours, it can be done seated and still or moving. The objective of meditation is to become mindful in what you are doing. To sit peacefully for even two minutes, being aware of your breath, allowing your thoughts to ebb and flow will do wonders for your overall clarity. It is important to understand the purpose of meditation is not to be void of thought, that would be bad...the purpose of meditation is to acknowledge the thoughts as they arise, not fixate on them and let them go. An image I often use when meditating is of clouds. I see the cloud, (thought) then a light breeze
( breath) moves the cloud from my vision until the next cloud appears. The idea is to find more space between the thoughts, more space between each breath, greater stillness of the mind.
The thoughts we often have are ones that take us away from Self. They are the thoughts of self doubt, self depreciation, comparison, the what if's, if only's and the woulda, shoulda, coulda's...am I right? None of those things are YOU, none of those thoughts are YOU. When we sit with these thoughts in meditation allowing them to pass through like the clouds in the breeze rather than play that loop again in our heads, we begin to chisel away at all that is not essence.
Much like this painting that has taken on the form of one in seated meditation ;we too take on the form of spouse, parent, child, job title, etc... but the beauty lies in all the intricacies within the form. So look closely, first at this painting and then at yourself exploring what blooms beneath the surface.
Remember, to shine brightly, there must be light within...
Shine On! -AHW-