If we look carefully, we know that all ideas and principles point to the same ‘Point’ – a point with a centre that has no centre. There are a variety of ways, approaches, and visions of spirituality and human evolution. Some are perfectly clear and aligned and some have to be magnified and even wrung out for the essence to be found.
To keep it simple, accessible, and provide solid support for the process of our discovery, here are 3 building blocks. These are here to speak to the intellect and serve the mind while being the strong foundation that holds the ground of our movement meditation. These building blocks are also the resources that help me devise the framework, give containment, light, and wisdom to the process of the DANCEmandala.
One. The five sheaths of being
In order to find out how to reveal our innermost Being, the sages explored various sheaths of existence, starting from the body and progressing through mind and intelligence, and ultimately to the soul. The yogic journey guides us from our peripheral, the body, to the centre of our being, the soul. The aim is to integrate the various layers so that the inner divinity shines out as through clear glass.’ ~ B.K.S Iyengar
The Five Koshas or the five sheaths of being is a traditional yogic principle. It describes metaphorical layers within the human body and the koshas are often likened to Russian nesting dolls or the layers of an onion. Discovering each layer brings you closer to a state of bliss. The five koshas are:
- Annamaya Kosha The outermost sheath refers to the body and is described as the food sheath and is concerned with the physical needs of the body, like food.
- Pranamaya Kosha is the layer of breath – the life force/energy sheath. It is concerned with the breath and flow of energy through the body.
- Manomaya Kosha The next sheath is the mind or mental sheath. It is concerned with thoughts and emotions as well as the five senses.
- Vijnanamaya Kosha is the knowledge sheath. This kosha comprises your wisdom, intuition, and perception.
- Anandamaya Kosha The innermost sheath is the bliss sheath. It represents unending joy, love, peace, and complete happiness.
Two. The Four Noble Truths
The Four Noble Truths proposition is one of the Triple Gems (Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha) that carry the essence of the Buddhist philosophy and teaching. Perhaps one of the very useful tools to help us begin to understand life as a human being and to see a way toward peace and inner freedom.
The Four Noble Truths were the content of the historical Buddha’s first sermon delivered after his enlightenment experience under the Bodhi tree. The Buddha constructed and presented his Noble Truths using a familiar method of medical reasoning making it universally accessible and practical. Thus, the Four Noble Truths move from diagnosis of disease (one) to identification of cause (two); and then again from recognition of cure (three) to the prescription of treatment (four). In this way, then Buddha hoped to move humanity, as he himself had moved, from being subject to a disease of life (suffering) to the glorious peace of the cure (Nibbana).
The Four Noble Truths are as follows:
1) There is dukkha (suffering).
2) The cause of dukkha is tanha (clinging, craving or desire for self-fulfillment).
3) There is a lasting end to dukkha, found in the letting go of the illusion of soul and the consequent desires and aversions born from this illusion.
4) The Fourth Noble Truth, which will serve as our conclusion to this initial encounter with these truths: the way out of dukkha is the Eightfold Path (ariya atthangika magga)
The Eightfold Path
The Buddha taught the Noble Eightfold Path. This was the path walked by the Buddha and countless others. It is a practical set of guidelines on how to train the mind, divided into 3 parts: Sila – Samadhi – Panya. They are not a stepped progression, but rather they should all be practiced together because they all depend on and inform each other.
Sila: Ethical conduct (Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood) is the foundation to well-being as taught by the Buddha. Without it, meditation practice will not bear fruit. Sila is acting and speaking to avoid harming oneself and others, ie, moral conduct; not because these actions are ‘sinful’ but because they are beneficial or not beneficial to oneself and others. Because wholesome speech and actions lead to wholesome states of mind, sila provides the conditions for samadhi and panya
Samadhi: mastery of the mind through effort (Right Effort), developing awareness of the present moment (Right Awareness), and concentration of your mind through mindfulness and meditation (Right Concentration). ‘Concentration’ is a misleading translation of Samadhi in sila-samadhi-panya. Mental discipline is a better word than Samadhi because effort, concentration and awareness are needed.
Panya: Realisation through a correct understanding of the way things are (Right Understanding). Panya is making wise decisions (Right Intention) because we understand through experience the real nature of all phenomena, and the laws of cause and effect. We are able to clearly discern what is beneficial and what is not.
It is not enough to simply know the Four Noble Truths and to be able to repeat them. The Four Noble Truths are to be understood, penetrated, internalized, lived.
Three. The Four Levels of Consciousness
Or awake consciousness takes in information using the five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and feel and makes conscious choices such as to move your hand or leg. Senses consciousness in the mind is also responsible for logic and reasoning. It helps us make decisions with the information we collect through our senses. It can receive instructions and also give instructions to the body – my leg has pins and needles so I should move it or go and eat now because you are hungry. Behind the conscious mind is the subconscious mind.
This holds information that we have received in the past, all the knowledge, emotions, beliefs, and experiences we have had in our lives. In a computer, the subconscious mind is like the hard drive, the memory. We can access the subconscious mind when we have something to stimulate it – e.g. we hear a certain song or smell a certain aroma and it triggers a memory of another time we have heard that song or smelled that aroma. If I smell something that reminds me of rice fields then I remember walking through them when I was a girl and the picture of the rice fields comes into my mind and I am taken back to that experience. The subconscious mind opens up and flows the information to the conscious mind.
The subconscious holds a lot of information, which is filed into compartments in our mind by association with the emotions we experienced during any event. This can lead to negative or unhelpful beliefs as the more intense the emotions associated with an experience the deeper its meaning becomes imprinted upon the subconscious e.g. if you were bitten by a dog when you were a child, obviously that dog was a danger to you, however, if your subconscious brain does not file the experience specifically i.e. that dog was dangerous, and instead slots all dogs into the “dangerous” file then it can start an irrational fear of dogs. So there can be a lot of misinformation that comes from the subconscious brain dependent on how experiences were filed.
Another way the subconscious mind takes in ideas and stores them as beliefs is through repetition. A dislike of your body could be from a passing comment someone once made which was backed up by repeatedly seeing the images in the media that show what beauty “ought” to look like, which does not match their bodies (Photoshop) let alone yours.
Repetition is also how we develop habits – repetition of behavior until it becomes subconscious.
Because the subconscious mind is where emotions are stored it also means that emotions are a key way to access it.
The super-conscious mind is all the knowledge of all creation. It is all that ever has been created, by teachers, by gurus by our ancestors, and all that will ever be created. It comes from the experiences and knowledge of our ancestors, the information of which is stored in our DNA, and everyone who has ever existed. Everything that is and ever can be is already out there waiting for us, humanity, to tap into it – whether that be learning the skills to fly the airplane (someone already knows and all you have to do is access that knowledge that already exists) or whether it be all the new inventions we are still to create. Everything in the energy fields of our ability to understand and receive is all out there. Whether these things are positive or negative depends on how we receive them and observe them. Meditative states are said to be key to accessing the superconscious – accessing answers.
Some people say this is the state beyond all knowledge, a place of emptiness, avoid. It is the place of acceptance – it is what it is, I am because I am.
In grace consciousness there is no bliss, there is no suffering, there just is. Grace consciousness is the places of oneness where we are part of the whole where we have let go of all identification other than being pure consciousness. We are no longer limited to individuality or form. As humans, we need to have an attachment to individuality to function in the daily world and as such grace consciousness is not a place we can, or perhaps should not, live in. However, it is somewhere we can visit if we can open our mind that far and experience the greater truth that nothing is wrong or right and we have no attachment to good suffering or bad suffering.
It takes practice to reach this place of non-attachment, which is where practices such as meditation come in.