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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Searching for Atman

I moved through the forest greenery like a fish through water. The trees parted before me in a fragrant canopy. The ground beneath my shoes squished softly under each step. The quiet stillness was only interrupted by the sound of wood animals. I could hear the creek flowing beside the path where I walked, a quiet whisper along the valley floor. Although I walked, I found myself entering a state of relaxation and meditation. In my mind, I again heard the seductive whisper of these words: "Everything you need for a beautiful life is already inside of you."

This phrase has become almost an obsession for me. When my life becomes chaotic or stressful I repeat it to myself. At challenging times, I question why I should ever suffer since I know these words to be true. Knowing this truth and living it can be two seperate things entirely.

I had the chance to get out of town for a few days and I found myself in the beautiful place I described in the first paragraph. The longer I was there, the more stillness and clarity I cultivated until the future became a pure and shining thing, altered only by my own mind. The path I tread in the forest was akin to the one I seek to tread in my life. While I walked I was free, pure and perfect. I knew who I was. I knew what mattered most.

When I first found out that I had MS my father (a holistic healer) came to visit me. He promised to "run some tests" to see how he could help me. Over time he has sent me questions and feedback regarding the testing and I have written back faithfully until the last set of questions came in. At that point, I found myself overwhelmed and irritated by the questions so I have taken my time responding. I could not understand why he asked what he asked so I spoke to my mother about it. She explained that according to his belief system, we are usually born into our true nature but that the things that come to pass in our lives often lead to "a blowout" or a seperation from our "true nature." At that point, we may fall pray to emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual illnesses. She explained that my father's questions were probably an attempt to pinpoint when, where and why I moved away from my true nature. I realized at that point it would be difficult for me to satisfactorily answer my father's questions because I was uncertain about what my "true nature" really was.

The yogic philosophers also write about a true self. They call this self "Atman." According to Darren Main (2007, Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic), Atman means, "spark of the divine. Atman is the nature and substance of who we are. Buried beneath baggage from our past and fears about our future is Atman." He goes on to explain, "It is our true self." Main claims that the path to Samadhi (bliss) is through union with this true self. Other modern mystics and yogis concur with this belief. Most of the pain and suffering we experience is because of a disconnect with who we fundamentally are.

I believe this is also true. I find my greatest peace and happiness when I feel good about myself. I feel best about myself when I am doing the things I love the most. When others gain enjoyment with me, I am even more content. I realize I do not need the approval or enjoyment of others to find this joy but I also find that my happiness is most sullied by times when I feel good about something I am doing and someone else belittles my activities or considers them unworthy. It is this discontent that I am trying to get away from in my search for Atman.

I lose my lovely green path in a mind-maze of my own making. I do things then regret them and find myself lost in a labryinth of self-scrutiny and self-doubt. The problem is, I am always looking at myself from the perspective of an outside observer rather than through the eyes of Atman. There is this still, untouched, place inside of me where I have a deep certainty about what makes me happy and what I most desire from life but I am constantly distracted by the noise of the world outside me. When I find a few moments to focus on my own silent search, I grow quiet inside and the world is right.

I dream in vivid color and sensory sensation of places where I am Atman. My childhood paradise is a real place but it also lives within me. In my dreams I often find myself in this place again. It is a place much like the one I visited during my walk through the forest. I call this place "The Magic Land." The magic land is breathtakingly beautiful. I never want to leave there. I am content to remain outdoors in all seasons. Everything is twinged with a hint of the mystical. I expect that a fairy might pop out from a flower or from behind a tree there. I never understood until now why I always dream of this land but now it is clear. When I lived there, I was Atman. I never doubted myself or my actions. I was not trapped in the darkness of my own mind. I did not judge or beat myself up. I was free, innocent and without fear or worry. It was only time and experience that tainted me.

I want so badly to remember the woodland path where everything is clear and right. In trying times, I want to skip happily through the magic land of my dreams without a care. When the demons in my own mind threaten to obliterate me, I want to remember what it felt like to be a child, always dancing.


pat said...

I stumbled upon your post by accident(I'm related to someone who blogs as you do with MS)and wished to share something I believe I've learned about illness. Your irritation with your Dad's question seems quite reasonable when inner vision gets blurred. However, I am inclined to feel nature, though perfect,is super-charged with the particles of the sins of people. Not sin in a religious sense, but a rejection of our purpose.It only makes sense these particles cling to others who brush up against us.Doesn't the
sea suffer from sin outside itself, a most perfect entity? Your blogs are quite introspective and I found myself reading them despite my accidental intrusion.Thank You for that.

Jen said...

I'm currently reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and he also states that we as humans are not our minds, and if we can separate all our negative, compulsive thinking and just "be", we will find enlightenment. This is similar to Tibetan Buddhist thought. Just stop the destructive analyzing, self-judging, guilt, and so on. But growing up Catholic, it's hard for me, even now, to turn it off! Keep trying, right?

Denver Refashionista said...

Pat I am mystified and intrigued by your comment. What did you mean by this: "It only makes sense these particles cling to others who brush up against us.Doesn't the
sea suffer from sin outside itself, a most perfect entity?" I don't fully understand.

Denver Refashionista said...

Jen, although I did not grow up catholic I was raised in a "cult" so I certainly get the guilt... Thanks for dropping by.

~ Charlene S Noto said...

A beautiful entry. Poignant, honest and real. I enjoy reading your posts. It reminded me of something I heard once. We journey on the path toward home and when we get there we realize we never really left.

Blinders Off said...

I needed reminding of the following of what you said, THANKS:

I find my greatest peace and happiness when I feel good about myself. I feel best about myself when I am doing the things I love the most.

Denver Refashionista said...

I am glad that you all found something to connect with here. Thanks for reading,

pat said...

I do a type of social work with the mentally ill.Throughout my life I have struggled to understand why certain people suffer from specific diseases(without glaring fault of their own)A few of my clients have had tremendous injury done to them, while others,none that are apparent.I came to feel "injured"also by the suffering they felt, and have formed the belief that sin has neither boundary nor confinement to it's creator.In other words, the affect is often reverbated throughout life itself.I used the sea as an example of a perfect entity.It's been assulted by humans and suffers from sin, though there is no fault per se unto itself.I'm inclined to believe illness(MS in your case) is a result of a domino cast forth long ago smeared with a corruption you neither caused nor wanted.Does that make sense? To me, innocence even attracts corruption and hence we suffer without an apparent cause.Please keep posting. I am a student here as far as MS.Best to You.


Nadja, I enjoyed this post, but it raises more questions about life during your younger years. I hope you'll share more about that.

I tend to believe that our "true nature" is always within us. It may become hidden or buried, perhaps soiled by the "particles of sins of other people." But it is always there, never truly separated.

I'm still of the mind that there is nothing that you may have done, or have been directly done to you, to cause your body to develop MS.

In a way, developing MS is more like having all the stars align a special way to allow activation. Or maybe it's like a combination lock which must have just the correct selection of numbers to release.

I've now got an idea for a post related to this. I'll have to give it a little more thought. But thank you for this one.

pat said...

What a wonderful human need- to understand itself, and invite srutiny upon it's puzzle! You have started the quest and the comments people leave here are literally food for my thoughts.Perhaps all illness is a detour through an otherwise non-examined life.The challenges people face might just uncover the divinity of us all!

Denver Refashionista said...

Pat and Lisa, you have also given me food for thought. Thanks for your insightful comments.

Diane J Standiford said...

Uh, I differ with pat. I'm reading too much here about us bringing MS into our bodies.That is ridiulous, just as many people believe cancer is self-actuated. GIMME A BREAK. Do stress and childhood traumas (mental/abuse) pull a trigger? In some cases, perhaps, but a blanket philosophy about disease ignores science. And is very insulting, to me.

pat said...

Diane- I'm not sure how you "read" that in my posts....I, by no means believe we cause our own illness.If that were the case, there would be few living people.I'm sorry you got that impression.