Samadhi is the state of ecstasy or the pinnacle of yoga. This is not achieved by putting your foot behind your head, but by dedicated practice. The best definition of samadhi I’ve ever received is this: samadhi is achieved when all of our filters are removed. By that, I mean, everything that has shaped you; your education, gender, upbringing, whether you live in a rural area or urban, the color of your skin, your family relationship, if you have allergies, if you work with physical or health considerations, whether you have been sexually assaulted…and on and on. Most yoga practioners do not find samadhi.
These filters are important because they shape our ego and ego is necessary for living. Without ego, you would just be a blob. Ego reminds us to bathe, use our manners, speak, eat, make an effort. Ego is also why our species thrive, it makes us adaptable by creating ways to live more comfortably.
I invite you to imagine for a moment all the ways in which you identify yourself. Maybe begin with gender or race, think about how your education or lack-there-of has shaped you, where you grew up and the make-up of your family (were both parents present or were you raised in a single parent household?). All of these things molded you into the person you are.
Begin to add other things, like the company you keep or what type of occupation you chose.
Now add the scary; the close-calls that could have gone the other way, the event that took place shortly after you left…whatever it may be. And maybe for you it doesn’t have to be imagined, maybe you are someone who is working with your own experience every day. Maybe you have experienced the scariest thing you think you ever can experience and allow yourself to acknowledge it.
Now that you have taken a moment to consider all the ways you have been shaped as a person, try to remove them. See if you can strip them all away in this very moment. Many, if not all of you will say, ‘I cant.’ Its extremely difficult to force yourself to forget and clear the mind in this way. We need tools, guidance and teachers in order to navigate all the folds of our makeup. Even then, the work of unworking, can take years.
The yoga practice of asana is an opportunity to get brief glimpses into what the removal of filters could look like. Asana is your initial tool for moments of space in both body and mind. As the body moves through space, your attention shifts away from the clockwork of the future and the past and settles into the present space-eliminating for moments or minutes thoughts that otherwise occupy that space. And while the long term work of samadhi is extensive, I invite you to savor the glimpses within regular practice.