Adyashanti, a spiritual teacher from the Zen Buddhism tradition, talks about how enlightenment or self-realisation is not something that we attain. That actually, our natural state is enlightenment and all we are doing is peeling back the layers of obscuration which distract us from this.
He goes into greater detail in his book, "The End of Your World''. Adyashanti explains that many of us on ourjourney to self-realisation have experienced moments of enlightenment, perhaps simply a moment or at other times when our glimpses thread together becoming more sustained.
Yoga is simply another exercise to discover each layer of thought, feelings or behaviour we carry within us. Offering each of us the opportunity to choose to peel back these layers until we get to the core. In yoga asana, the challenges we face in our physical body reveal our reactive nature, our mental conditioning. As though each pose were an aerial antenna revealing a new wavelength of self-awareness or insight.
Through observation we can discover the 'tinted lens' each of us may unconsciously view our life through. As each layer of unconscious conditioning is unveiled we have the choice to continue in this way, or perhaps, to question who we are if we did not believe a particular thought.
In yoga asana, the process of mastering challenging postures may require physical transformation. But on a deeper level this process reveals how we experience aspects of our being- perhaps with self-belief or doubt, trust or fear and teaching us how to step into unknown territory with curiosity at what we are beyond the usual expectations of our perceived limitations.
Also, through the patient, balanced effort of ongoing practice we are able to experience self-acceptance, persistence and practice loving ourselves wherever we are with the physicality of our practice. We can nurture ourselves with self-love, humility and surrender and become the master of our mind.
A regular practice dissolves the belief that we are the same from class to class. It teaches us to observe the subtle changes in all things through the framework of our body. By developing flexibility and openness in our attitude to ourselves and our circumstances, we can learn to see everything, particularly ourselves, with new eyes. This is what can be meant as maintaining a 'beginner's mind'.
So as we peel back the layers of ourselves, revealing, transforming or deconstructing our beliefs about who we are and what we are capable of, we may eventually question - 'If we are not as we believe ourselves to be, then what are we?'
It is in the non-knowing who or what we are that yoga becomes revealing (and exciting if you're a yoga nerd like me). It is now that we may discover a jewel of self-realisation, in the wisdom of our natural and effortless state of being.