My eyes were burning with unbearable pain, it felt like they were going to pop out of their holes! They were sore and itchy and my head was pounding to the point I could barely think. After my lasik surgery, the doctor instructed me to stay in a dark room, cover my eyes with patches and every 4 hours put eye drops that made my face twitch. For a full week I didn’t see anything and couldn’t do anything – it was torture!
On the morning of the seventh day I removed the patches, letting my eyes slowly readjust to the light. I walked outside for the first time after a week and couldn’t believe what I found there – a Rosewood tree, standing in front of my house, high and proud, growing into the sky, with its branches and leaves swinging in the wind, creating endless shades of green as they drop shadow and reveal the light interchangeably. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life!
I realized that I had walked by this tree every day for the past five years and not once noticed its beauty! On that morning, with my new set of eyes, I could suddenly see it. I stood there, staring at the tree, mesmerized by the play of light stroking the leaves as they throw shadows on one another, and simply unable to take my eyes off it. It was astounding! How come I never noticed it before? Despite the harsh pain, I was so happy I did the surgery that allowed me to see all these details! A cheerful feeling filled my heart, as I woke up from all the suffering into this bliss.
The morning after, as I left my house and looked up at the tree again, I noticed that it was still pretty, but not as stunning as yesterday. I couldn’t really understand why – my eyesight was a perfect 20/20 now, why couldn’t I see the tree like yesterday? Was the sunlight different? Was I different? A wave of disappointment washed over my heart. The days passed, I woke up each morning, left the house, walked by the tree and went to work, no longer paying attention to the leaves and their shapes, but the image of the miraculous tree had remained vivid in my mind.
A few years later, when I heard the term Samadhi for the first time, I knew that was it! Samadhi, simply translated to bliss, is the last step in the path of eight limbs in the Yoga sutras of Patanjali. Samadhi is a meditative state of total absorption, where awareness is completely present in the moment. In his book Freedom, Love, and Action, Jiddu Krishnamurti said that if you never meditated in your life “You are like the blind man in a world of bright colors”. I know I was blind before, but I also didn’t know how to see again…
The last three limbs of the Yoga Sutras are the three stages of meditation.The first one is Dharana – concentration or single-minded focus – the stage in which one trains the mind to be centered on one thing. The second step is Dhyana – the state of meditation – and the third one is Samadhi – the bliss. I started in the end, in Samadhi, but because I didn’t walk the entire path to get there, I didn’t know how to reach it again.
So I started practicing Dharana and discovered that there are thousands of techniques to train your brain, from gazing at one object to gazing at your third eye, from using visualization to gesturing mudras, from repeating mantras to looking at yantras, so I chose one and started practicing daily. And let me tell you, it is so hard! My thoughts keep wandering all over, the minutes feel like hours, my eyes blink, the seat is uncomfortable and my shoulders hurt. I feel restless and agitated and just can’t wait for it to be over! Sometimes it really feels like torture, just like recovering from lasik… Without realizing it, I had been practicing intensive meditation in a dark room for a whole week while my eyes were healing, so I know it is worth it, because sometimes, in rare mornings, it just flows. I get into the zone where time loses its meaning and only the now exists. Everything is quiet in my mind and joy spreads from my heart to every part of my body. And when the gong rings and I open my eyes, everything is bright and beautiful, a smile is lifted up from the corner of my lips, I take a big breath in and start my day with a blissful taste of Samadhi.
The stage that takes us from Dharana to Samadhi is the hardest to explain, like a riddle in the middle, Dhyana is left unsolved. Almost like describing what love is or how it feels to swim in the ocean, it is really difficult to illustrate what meditation is. So many words had been written about meditation, but nothing can really depict it. Like love, meditation is something that needs to be personally experienced, and like love, we tend to see it as serious and complex. But, as Krishnamurti writes: “Meditation is really very simple. We complicate it. We weave a web of ideas around it, what it is and what it is not. But it is none of these things. Because it is so very simple, it escapes us”. Simple, but not easy….
The practice of Dharana is to focus the mind on one point and concentrate on one thought at a time. This practice has an important side effect – it creates a space between one thought and the next, and with time, this gap grows wider and longer. This space which we can’t see is Dhyana. Krishnamurti defines it as the moment “When the heart enters into the mind”. In other words, Meditation is the time when there is enough space between the thoughts for the heart to enter. “When the thought is silent there is emptiness… Empty – and therefore utterly open”.
Meditation is clearing space, emptying out, opening up. This emptiness is the state of Dhyana that allows us to experience Samadhi. I now understand that it wasn’t the eye surgery that sharpened my vision and enabled me to see – it was the time spent in the darkness that emptied my mind. One of my teachers used to say that instead of looking for our place in the world, we should try to make more space for the world inside ourselves. After seven days in a dark room, I had enough space for one tree to manifest in its full glory, and with practice I hope to create enough space for the whole world.
Ella is grateful to share her love to the magical power of yoga. In her classes she encourages to listen to the wisdom of the body, and let the intuition guide the way. Join her to Lotus Basics on Monday and Wednesday at 8:30pm, and Thursday at 10:45am. Ella also teaches Lotus Yin on Wednesday at 4pm, and live music flow aka Friday Night Live!