My very first yoga teacher (shout out to Laura Jarrait) described yoga as a practice of remembering who we really are. I had one of those a-ha kind of moments the first time she said that in a class I was in. I had that moment of familiarity with what she was saying, even though I’d never explicitly thought that myself. She put words to something I intuitively knew.
Smriti is variously translated as memory, recollection, remembering. It’s the power to tap back into our true nature, even when we’re distracted and forgetting.
We are radiant beings, reflections of the glory of the divinity of the Universe. Does this sound too woo for you? This might sound lofty, but it’s supported by yogic texts, not to mention the texts of many other faiths. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, know that I too sometimes struggle to reconcile the analytical-academic-critical-thinking side of my brain, with the wide-open-sunlight-pouring-through-the-trees side of my brain. That might not even be a part of my brain. Maybe that’s someplace else entirely. Heart, soul, spirit, who knows, etc? But for the purposes of this post, let’s just roll with the idea: We are burning orbs of light, shining bright the power of the capital-U Universe.
Somehow, we forget this fact. We get so crusted over with the mud of thoughts, ideas, attachments, aversions, tasks, and desires that we completely lose sight of the truth of who we are. We stumble through our days thinking WE ARE all of those thoughts and ideas. Sometimes we grapple through weeks or months without ever looking up to see ourselves clearly. Some of us spend years, lifetimes even, without remembering the truth of our wholeness and connectedness.
Think about how lonely that sounds, spending every day believing that you are alone, separate from, incomplete, not enough. Think about the suffering that might cause you. Think about all the destructive things you might do to yourself or others to cope with that pain. Think about the act of forgetting.
Now imagine seeing yourself clearly. Imagine that sense of separation dissolving. Imagine the muck dissolving. Imagine the light of your own true nature piercing through. This is what yoga offers us, a glimpse of who we truly are, a look at our own radiance.
My current teacher (mad love to Heide Grace) describes it this way: When we first practice yoga, the path isn’t clear. We’re walking through a field of tall grass, and we don’t know where the path is. We must look down and step carefully in order to find our way. But over time, with repeated practice, the path becomes well-trodden. The way becomes easy to find. We have been here before, and we remember the way.
So when we step off the mat or leave the meditation cushion, we can recall that we are not our exterior. We are not the thoughts and feelings gurgling inside. We are wider, deeper, and brighter. We forget, and smriti helps us remember.
P.S. Want more practices to banish your amnesia in daily life? Heartspark shows you how! Register here: http://bearteachesyoga.org/new-events/heartspark.