This past Friday I returned from Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, MA after attending the Level I Training on Yoga Nidra (Integrative Restoration -- iRest). This was conducted by Richard Miller, author of Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga. Many of you know that I also attended Byron Katie's School for The Work in Oct. '06. I am pursuing certification in iRest and will use it in conjunction with The Work in my private therapy practice (and of course in my own life).
Richard Miller is a yoga instructor as well as a psychologist who takes a nondual approach to therapy. He wrote a chapter for the book The Sacred Mirror: Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy on Yoga Nidra. The translation of "yoga nidra" that seems to best capture its meaning is "awake asleep." "Yoga" means "yoke," "union" and "awake." "Nidra" means "sleep." It is a play on the words "awake" and "sleep" and implies that we are awake across all states of consciousness (waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep).
Yoga Nidra is a meditation technique that has two main phases -- constructive and deconstructive. We begin in the constructive phase by meditating on the various bodies or sheaths ("koshas") -- the physical, breath, emotional, mental, bliss and ego-I bodies. We welcome all that is into awareness. Then the deconstructive phase has to do with inquiring into the very nature of awareness itself -- who is aware of these physical sensations, the breath, these emotions, etc.? Awareness aware of itself.
In a nutshell, Yoga Nidra has two main “movements”:
1) We are learning how to welcome all that is – including our reactions to what is.
2) We are seeing that all of these “objects” that we are welcoming are not who we really are – they are subject to change – to birth, life, decay and death. We therefore begin to live as our True, Unchanging, Immovable, Invulnerable, Compassionate Nature. We begin to live our way into the answer to Byron Katie's question, “Who would you be without your story?”
One way that Richard Miller put it during the training is that our problematic sensations, emotions, beliefs, reactions, etc. can be viewed as messengers. Our job is then to welcome them in and inquire into what they are telling us. We will continue to dwell on the past and deal with its residues until we get the message – until we learn how to welcome what is with all of the resulting sensations, emotions, thoughts, etc. that are triggered in us. Until we do that we are the victims of a past that only lives as a story.
We can also get to the point where we realize that the abuse, betrayal, slight, etc. did not happen to “us.” It happened to our bodies (our physical, energetic, emotional, mental, bliss and ego-I bodies). However, our True Nature can never be hurt because it is invulnerable. When we realize our selves as True Nature we no longer resist or attach to anything. Situations come and go, emotions come and go, thoughts come and go – True Nature is changeless, immovable and timeless.
Now is when the third "movement" happens. We put the sheaths back on and return to "the market place." We return to the nitty-gritty of life and the play of existence. The only difference is that we are no longer getting our sense of identity from the play. We can be a personality at the same time that we know we are not this personality. Thoughts will still happen, but we are not identified with our thoughts.
The actual process is perhaps too complicated to describe in a blog entry. I recommend that anyone who is interested read Richard Miller's essay called “The Principles and Practice of Yoga Nidra” found on his website http://www.nondual.com in the "teaching" section.
I asked Richard how he felt about me integrating Yoga Nidra with The Work of Byron Katie and he said he thought that would be perfectly fine since they are, “the same thing.” He mentioned Katie often in the training and said that he will be adding her book Loving What Is to his suggested reading list in the manual that he gave us. I can certainly see how the two processes work very well together.
I end with a quote from Richard that summarizes what regular practice of Integrative Restoration – iRest – Yoga Nidra does for us:
“iRest is both a technique of relaxation as well as a method that reveals our innate, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being across all dimensions of our body and mind, as well as evokes spiritual enlightenment or Self-realization. It blends together practices of deep relaxation, breathing, one-pointed concentration, emotional and cognitive healing, identification with objects, and meditative inquiry that allows us to recognize our inherent ground of Being. When assembled together, these constitute a potent method of meditation that teaches a comprehensive approach to stress reduction as well as spiritual awakening” (from the Level I Training Manual).
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