Satsang is a gathering of people seeking Truth. And while there are as many individual approaches to Truth as there are beings, there are universal truths that ring true for the collective mindbody. Love, and peace, and appreciation, for instance, are organically woven into the tapestry of light that's our life.
Dr. Deepak Chopra hosts these satsang events which feel like a nourishing blend of town hall meeting, lecture, and meditation. It was a natural fit to have world-renowned photographer Michael O'Neill launch his book On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace at a satsang. A meditation in images, On Yoga is a tribute to the spirits it portrays, a collection of ancient wisdom for modern times, and a chronicle of O'Neill's own journey toward enlightenment. As he defines it, "enlightenment is discovering who you really are."
A whole decade in the making, the book bears witness to our collective journey in individual form. "The self of the individual is the self of the universe," Dr. Chopra remarks. Well-known and unknown faces share their expression of Truth as they're embodying it in the here and now. It's the process of unbinding, letting go, opening up; it's the ever-evolving discovery of self, of other, of self in other that lets Dr. Chopra's face become mine, that lets the Indian guru's body become yours.
"I thought I was an atheist until I realized I'm a spiritual being," O'Neill says. I've noticed in myself and others (is there really a difference when you boil it down to its most divine essence?) a desire to reconnect with, to reembody here on earth, a presence bigger than myself. Some call it God, others call it Source, Spirit, Divine Love, Nature, Universe, Love, The Divine... whatever lights you up. Point is, divine nourishment is gratitude food of the highest order. Ambrosia on tap. Everyday alchemy.
Yoga (re)ignites the energy flow in our body. It helps us fly high and root deep at the same time. It allows us to reconnect more easily, swiftly, with Spirit. Portraits of Spirit, by the way, could have also been the book's title as O'Neill shared. In essence, yoga prepares body and mind for meditation; earth rising into heaven, heaven taking root in earth. "To me, yoga and meditation are the same," O'Neill states.
Why meditate or practice yoga? Aside from the fact that you'll feel great and enhance cognitive function, it reminds you of the bigger picture. As Dr. Chopra shares, "Everything we do has its source in awareness. Without awareness, there's no experience. A thought comes from awareness. An emotion comes from awareness. Perceptual experience comes from awareness."
For O'Neill, the yoga of awareness has opened up a new sense of self. "Each of us is a spark of light, a glow. We're all connected to the infinite. Part of our time here is to understand why we are here and come to grasp the concept of the Divine or God -- whatever that means to us."
As an artist whose chosen medium is photography, O'Neill has poured his essence into his art. As Dr. Chopra puts it, "An artist imbues their spirit in whatever their art form is." So if you're a chef, the meals you create are imbued with your spirit. If you're a neurologist, your treatments are imbued with your spirit. If you're a customer service representative, your support is imbued with your spirit.
"Can you be aware of any object without imbuing it with your consciousness? No." And get this, Dr. Chopra continues: "We're present in every object through our perception of it." Talk about quantum leaps of influence. Except it's not quantum, it's basic. It's the nature of our being. As follows, "there are as many universes as there are sentient beings. There is no single universe out there." Moreover, "there's no object in the universe in which we are not present."
It's on this beyond-photonic level that O'Neill intended to connect with the folks in the book. "I try to become friends with the light of the people I was working with," he shares. "There's a tremendous amount of glow in it [the book]." And what is light if not divine? As Dr. Chopra highlights, "the only light there is is the light of spirit." In other words, "You're a stardust being with awareness."
The beauty of a satsang is that people get to ask questions, interact, connect. It's a vibrant community committed to improving the quality of life for their family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. One lady asked if alternative modes of healing such as yoga and meditation will ever become part of mainstream medical care. "There's a trajectory toward recognition," O'Neill says. The funny thing is that 80% of the conditions treated in hospitals (PANIC: Pain, Anxiety, Nausea, Insomnia, Constipation), can be taken care of by a holistic way of living that includes yoga, meditation, mindfulness, massage, breathing, love according to Dr. Chopra.
This satsang happened to take place during the first night of Navratri, the nine-night Hindu holiday that honors the Divine Feminine in her different expressions (Shakti, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Durga...). Echoing the words of the Dalai Lama who said that 'the world will be saved by the Western woman," Dr. Chopra declared that "the yogis of the future are women." Amen to that.
The architecture of peace that is yoga flows seamlessly into this concept as women across the globe naturally embody divine, feminine values such as grace, compassion, and beauty (in addition to general fierceness). And the world is better for it. It's the spark that binds.