In my previous blog entry I wrote about Yoga Nidra, or what I call "Relax Into Greatness," and the profound benefits -- that this ancient, systematic approach to complete relaxation offers both body and mind. In this post I'd like to further explore how it can work to help us have more of the life we truly want.
The yoga tradition teaches that desire has four levels of intensity. Each one is a progressively more compelling force that exerts an increasing influence on our destiny. The first level of intensity is a wish, which has the least amount of power behind it. It qualifies as desire, but in terms of sheer energy, a wish in and of itself has little of the crucial impetus necessary to move you very far toward achieving your desire(s).
The second level of intensity refers to a desire becoming important enough to influence your thoughts and actions. The Sanskrit term for this level of intensity (svatmi karana) relates to the principle that when you embrace a desire fully enough, it literally becomes a part of you. At this stage of wanting, the object of your desire influences the way you think, feel and act.
At this level of intensity your attention to your desire has increased to a point that is commonly referred to as intention. Your desire has now gathered or collected more energy and intensity for it to be fulfilled. And in some cases it may be a force strong enough to help us manifest our desire.
The third intensity of desire is indomitable will and determination. This refers to you being unwilling to fail. In this case, the full force of your desire is now unyielding. No amount of "no" or discouragement keeps you from continuing to invest all of yourself and everything in your reach to attain your goal.
At this level your sense of yourself and your capacities naturally expands and evolves. You stop looking outside yourself for why you may not yet have achieved your desire. Instead, you spontaneously generate more will, more knowledge and you intuitively begin to act in ways that draw your desire ever closer to manifestation.
Yet, while this third level of intensity is capable of generating considerable force -- depending on the level of resistance standing between you and your desires -- it still may not be enough force to achieve your desire.
The fourth level of intensity is the hardest to describe. Yogis call it sankalpa siddhi, the literal translation of which is "perfect attainment or manifestation." It is the state of consciousness whose effect is capable of defying what most of us would consider the laws that govern the material world. At this level, desire is no longer based on hope or on the point of view that you, the desirer, are separate from your desire. At this level there is no distinction between wanting and having.
The point is that unlike the previous three levels, which can be said to incrementally increase with the application of "muscular" or willful energy, the fourth level of intensity of desire is not effortful in the common sense of the word. It is rooted in a state of complete ease and acceptance, and it is based on a unified awareness, where we are not separate or distinct from the world in which we live.
Manifestation -- this final level of desire -- is rooted in a quiet and all-encompassing conviction born from the awareness that you and the object of your desire are one. It is the domain of only the most exceptional of beings. India is full of stories of such beings, those who embodied this principle and could, at any time, not through trickery or slight of hand, manifest things at will. An example from the Western tradition is the story of Jesus and the "miracle of the loaves and fish," where Jesus, upon blessing five loaves of bread and two fish, was able to feed more than 5,000 people.
What I am describing is clearly out of reach for practically all of us -- at least in the absolute sense. It is, however, worth noting that the yoga tradition tells us that the practice of Yoga Nidra can at least help us begin to approach it. The following story is a real-life illustration of how.
When Nicole came to my yoga and meditation workshop, she was at a crossroads. Suffering from severe endometriosis for most of her adult life, she had spent years trying to get pregnant. Now, after many unsuccessful attempts with fertility drugs and multiple cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF), her doctors were saying that she had only one more chance to get pregnant. If it failed, more than likely she would never have a child.
In just a few months, Nicole would undergo her final attempt at IVF. As she faced what she knew would be her and her husband's last chance to have a child, she was dreading what lay ahead. At this point, after the many disappointments of the last five years, she was more stressed than ever.
After talking with Nicole, I intuitively felt this last attempt could, in fact, be successful. However, I also sensed that her current physical and emotional state might make getting pregnant less likely. As fate would have it, I was scheduled to lead a Four Desires seminar just a few weeks before her planned procedure. I expressed to her my strong feeling that the process of "The Four Desires" could potentially make a real difference.
A few months later Nicole came to the workshop unsure how or if it would help her achieve her dream of having a child. To cut to the chase, 10 months later, Nicole and her husband received the gift they had prayed and hoped for. They named her Emily.
The last time I spoke with Nicole, when Emily was a year old, I asked her which of the techniques she had worked with at my workshop did she believe had the greatest impact. She immediately told me, "Relax Into Greatness."
"After you led us through the practice," she said, "I felt all the pain and burdens of the past few years dissolve. It gave me an amazing sense of freedom and from it, for the first time in more than five years, I truly felt that my happiness was not dependent on having a child. I would joyously and lovingly welcome a child if and when God were to bless my husband and me with one, but I finally had a sense of peace and a very clear feeling that I would be okay, whatever happened."
Nicole left the retreat with two essentials for increasing the likelihood of fulfilling her desire. One was a clear, positive and unequivocal vision of achieving an intention (getting pregnant and having a child). The second was a real sense that she could be happy no matter the outcome of her efforts.
In "Healing Words," a deeply thought-provoking book, Larry Dossey, M.D. shares clinical proof that the mind has remarkable capacity to heal the body -- and I would add, to affect our future. Citing the work of Brendon O'Regan, Vice President of Research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, who studied the phenomenon of "miracle cures," Dossey summarizes O'Regan's conclusions in the following way:
People undergoing radical, spontaneous, healing events "are in a different place psychologically." One of their chief characteristics is that they do not [my italics] determinately want healing; they are not desperate for a miracle to occur; they are not trying at any cost to extract a radical healing from the universe. They have a quality of acceptance and gratitude, as if things are quite all right in spite of the presence of the disease. Thus, the paradox: Those who do not demand healing are the ones who frequently seem to receive it.
It is no coincidence that the common psychological characteristic of those who are most likely to achieve "miracle cures" is so similar to the state of desire's fourth level of intensity as well as the state which Yoga Nidra allows us to access. It does this by moving you into a state of complete ease and effortlessness, which ultimately leads to being established in the awareness that your happiness and joy are not dependent on the fulfillment of any object or outcome. The depth of relaxation it provides allows you to recognize that fulfillment is your ever-present condition.
It might seem counterintuitive that resting in an awareness of acceptance and gratitude for what is could be the ideal soil for planting an intention about what you want. But that is exactly what sages from time immemorial have taught, what the latest research is helping to prove and the very thing that yoga's systematic method for complete relaxation -- Yoga Nidra -- can help you to embody.
Excerpt adapted from "The Four Desires" by Rod Stryker. Copyright © 2011 by Rod Stryker. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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