There is a wonderful teaching in yoga that flips the world over and inside out from the way most of us see ourselves, each other, and the world at large. The teaching is simple but it goes against almost everything we are told to believe every day. The teaching is we are love. Fundamentally, we are love at our essence. You may say we all have the same soul and that soul is love.
When you look at our country and the world, you have to admit this yoga teaching is “way out there” and obviously belongs to another time period, or worse yet is just dead wrong. Our world is filled with wars, terrorism, conflicts, hatred, and violence. It seems conclusive we definitely are not love. No way! In fact, there appears to be enough evidence to suggest that human beings have a bad nature, a sinful nature.
But there is another way of understanding this teaching. What if this yoga teaching is not referring to how we act towards each other or whether we do good things or bad things? What if the teaching, we are love, is about what we are in essence, at our root, our fundamental nature? Yoga is telling us our eternal nature, which exists before birth and exists after death, is love. Ultimately, love is who we are whether we know it or not. If we are unfamiliar with our inherent nature, then it makes sense we have the propensity to identify with being other than loving.
Love is not something we do. Love is what we are. Underneath all the rushing thoughts, emotions, and senses there is a part of us that is eternally present and silent. It may seem as small as a mustard seed at times but it is always there, always present, and is our very essence. It is who we are because it is the only part of us that stays and never changes. Everything else comes and goes.
The yogis spent their lives exploring themselves, searching for the soul, much like scientists spent their time searching for the smallest particle, the essence of matter. In the end, the yogis’ search leads them to a universal experience which came to be known as yoga, which means union. Union is another word for love.
I want to share with you a wonderfully fun mental exercise you can try. This exercise will give you a hint in answering the question, “Am I love?” It comes from a beautiful book called the Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra, one the earlier yoga texts, and is a book of dhāraṇās. A dhāraṇā is a mental practice involving focusing on something. The dhāraṇā I am going to share with you is easy and only takes a few minutes.
Imagine you are waiting at a train station for an old good friend to arrive for a visit. You have not seen your friend in years and although you both regularly communicate, it has been a very long time since you’ve both enjoyed each other’s company in person. You are really excited and happy as you watch your friend’s train arrive. People rush towards the train, excited and happy to see their loved ones. After a while, the crowd starts to thin out and you see your old dear friend step off the train. You recognize each other and start walking towards one another. You feel gratitude, happiness, and love. Hold this image and the accompanying feelings in your imagination for as long as you can. When the images and the feelings start to dissolve let them go.
Notice how the feeling of love you have for your friend exists within you. When you feel love for your friend, the feeling of love is inside you; it is not originating in your friend. Your friend may be the reason for your love but your experience of love is inside you. Love comes from within you and the source of love is inside you.
Now try the love dhāraṇā again but take it even deeper. This time, when you feel love for your old friend, at the moment when you feel your love the strongest, drop the image of your friend and feel the love without the image of your friend or any other image. Just feel the love inside yourself. Dwell in your own love.
The point of this dhāraṇā is profound. The point is to realize that the source of all love is within you. In fact, you are the love you are feeling. At your core of being, you are love. You project love onto others and even onto things you love but in reality, the source of love is within and you are the love you are feeling.