Nisarga Yoga Means Natural Unity
Nisarga Yoga, which was first defined in the book ‘I Am That’, is a powerful exploration of one’s body and mind, and life as a whole. ‘Nisarga Yoga’ can be translated as ‘Natural Unity’. It’s the work of consciousness of identifying, embracing and releasing the limiting self-concepts we take ourselves to be in order to unveil the truth of what we are. We are always in perfect unity with our true Self, but due to the play of duality we feel separate and therefore suffer.
I offer a caring reflective setting for the clarification of the body-mind (often characterised and clouded by energies and stories of desire and fear) and the blossoming of Self-Awareness.
Nisarga Yoga is the ultimate search within, and to delve into our immediate sense of Being in order to connect with its non-dual source is the heart of Maharaj’s approach. I do not, however, negate our miraculous humanness and the sometimes painful stories it ensues which I believe need and deserve understanding, compassion and attention. If we take time to look within and learn to trust and follow our knowledge and feeling ‘I Am’, we gradually unveil the natural unity (nonduality), security and fulfilment that we already are.
Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuating states of the mind. With the essential help of consciousness, the mind acknowledges the limitations of its own nature and deconstructs itself through inquiry. The goal of yoga is to liberate consciousness from its embroilment with the mind in order to deepen and broaden our awareness of our true Self.
“It is not the person that is doing sadhana [spiritual practice]. The person is in unrest and resistance to the very end. It is the witness that works on the person, on the totality of its illusions, past, present and future.”
– Nisargadatta Maharaj
Understand, Discern, Focus and Unravel
According to Nisargadatta, the five senses and the three qualities (gunas) are our eight steps in yoga (explained below). And the knowledge that we are (our sense ‘I am’ or presence) is the Great Reminder (mahamantra) which we can meditate upon. We can learn from these steps all we need to know, he says. But we must be attentive, and inquire ‘Who am I?’ beyond the inherited and inferred ideas of ourselves. We need to become aware of our own existence and identify how we function, witness our motives and the outcomes of our actions.
It’s possible to fine-tune the focus of immediate consciousness through the technology of meditation and Self-inquiry. The essence of meditation and inquiry practice is mindfulness. When mindfulness is radical, meditation has the potential to make clear that we are, and inquiry can make clear what we are. This fusion of “that” and “what” is powerful, transformative, and illuminating.
“Consider the concept that the five elements and the three gunas are the lotus with these leaves, the little petals. When you remove its petals, then what remains?“ – Nisargadatta Maharaj
Self-inquiry: Who Am I?
The question “Who am I?” is a tool which helps us move our focus from objects of consciousness to the ultimate holder of them. Self-inquiry is not psychological analysis or
problem solving, because life isn’t a problem to be solved; it’s an ever-fresh interaction we immerse ourselves in and stay in receptively and wakefully. In this way, we ask “Who am I?” with a different outlook from that of psychology. Intellectual answers are not the target. In other words, we’re not speculating or dreaming up explanations (not to say that this doesn’t have its place); inquiry, in contrast, is direct observation and complete openness.
“Who am I?” means “What is the nature of my consciousness in the universal sense?”, “What is it to exist?”, and “What is at the heart of existence?” These questions start from the position that Life is a single happening and take us closer toward that which is free of any implied duality. In earnestly examining our experience, our focus widens, which allows us to stay receptive and awake to truth.
“Give up all questions except one: ‘Who am I?’ After all, the only fact you are sure of is that you are. The ‘I am’ is certain. The ‘I am this’ is not. Struggle to find out what you are in reality.”
– Nisargadatta Maharaj
Meditation: I Am
Many people since ancient times have practiced meditation as a way of being receptive to truth: of becoming familiar with and rooted in their most authentic Self. Meditation is a tool for recognising clearly; with practice, falsehoods and distractions are cast off, and then with earnestness and devotion one focuses on what remains, thus becoming awake to truth.
One thing you can be completely sure of, with a little introspection, is your vital aliveness which underlies and illuminates the constructions of imagination. Consciousness precedes imagining. It’s crucial to find and keep coming back to your consciousness. Otherwise, you’ll continue to experience isolation and alienation from life, from yourself.
In Nisarga Yoga we make our consciousness (aliveness, beingness, presence, I-am-ness, or whatever you wish to call it) our focus of meditation. “Meditate with your consciousness,” says Nisargadatta, “not with the body.”
I will help guide you though meditation and give you access to some meditation audio you can use between sessions. With a commitment to remembering, this “coming back” surrenders the mind’s storytelling, analysing, and judging.
“The feeling ‘I am’ is called consciousness. Hold onto that. The mind will not go away. Just keep on observing what you are. Do not consult the mind. The mind continues – let it be.”
– Nisargadatta Maharaj
The Building Blocks of Experience
Everything we experience is as a result of information we take in through our senses: visual (what you see), auditory (what you hear), kinaesthetic (touch, movement, feelings, sensations), olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste). In Neuro-linguistic Programming, these experiences are known as modalities. There’s a representational system for each of the senses; this is how we experience the world. Each modality has a level of fine-tuning known as submodalities. Because submodalities are the basic building blocks, or patterning, of our experiences, they are essential tools in understanding and managing our mind and emotions. Our neurobiology is interlinked with our representational system which is how experiences such as trauma get stored in our body. Stored trauma can be seen, felt, and met through safely bringing sensory-based elements of it into the present and it can dissolve.
These building blocks encode our memories. “Change the pattern,” Said Nisargadatta, “and you have changed the man.” What we know shapes us and our perception of life, and this knowledge is based on memory and habit. Memory produces the illusion of continuity. Memory is the warp of mental life and identity is a pattern of events in apparent time and space. Nisargadatta teaches, “Senses are mere modes of perception. As the grosser modes disappear, finer states of consciousness emerge” and asks “Without memory, what are you?” However, Nisargadatta saw that there was nothing wrong with the senses; it is our imagination that misleads us. Imagination is the projected universe of time and space.
Everything begins with imagination, sometimes called Maya. As we perceive life, we instantaneously intellectualise it and therefore distort it. The creative storytelling power of imagination projects colour, shape, form, and meaning on the blank screen that is your primary nature. The moment you have a sense of Beingness and you say “I exist,” the entire universe is created, including your distinctive self-identity in contrast to other individuals. This means that you don’t exist because the world exists; the world exists because you do! What you are in the truest sense is not a creation of imagination and therefore cannot be named or grasped. You can only be. We are what we are, already. Nevertheless, we can unwind the tendency to imagine ourselves to be limited entities. There’s nothing to lose except an isolated phantom. This is not bypassing our humanity, however, but recognising that you are that which creates and embraces our bittersweet humanness without condition.
The Three Gunas: The Forces of Personality
In Nisarga yoga, you see how you function, you watch the motives and the results of your behaviour. You learn to watch your mind, and see how it arises and operates. Our behaviour is the result of the “three gunas”, taught Nisargadatta.
According to the philosophy of yoga, somatic problems are a manifestation of an imbalance between three Gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) that go to constitute our body-mind complex.
The gunas are qualities of the mind. Guna means strand, like those of a rope. We can compare the strands of a rope to personality; the various strands, or gunas, entwining to create our individuality. Remember, you are not limited to the person you take yourself to be – you are the One Life expressing yourself as a person for a while.
The ‘Three Guṇas’ underpin the philosophy of mind in yoga. They are particularly significant in terms of their psychological manifestation. We could say that the gunas create the modalities and the submodalities described above. The gunas activation and interaction also result in the creation of physical forms.
The three gunas are: sattva (harmony and virtue), rajas (energy and passion), tamas (restraint and passivity). The gunas blend and produce the play of individuality – the temporary false self. They describe the basic forces of personality and our unique psychology.
- Tamas means ‘ignorance’ or ‘darkness’
- Rajas means ‘pollen of the flowers’ indicating that flowers have the ability to create new flowers, therefore rajas is the quality of creativity and seeking
- Sattva means ‘Sat’ = ‘being’ and ‘Va’ = ‘where purity dwells’. Sattva means ‘goodness’, or ‘enlightenment’ in Sanskrit. English words such as ‘satisfaction’ and ‘saint’ actually derive from the Sankrit “‘Sattva’.
In ‘I Am That’ Nisargadatta points out that if we are to meet the deeper layers of suffering (for example, trauma) we need to go to its roots and unveil their “underground network” (the unconscious), where desire and fear are closely linked and the currents of energy (the gunas) hinder, block and destroy one another.
Rajas and tamas are the influences in the generation of the changing states of the mind. Without being attentive and earnest, the mind continues to repeat the same ingrained habitual patterns of personality. All three gunas are constantly present in us, and their influence and intensity fluctuate. Nisargadatta pointed out that it is in the nature of sattva to reconcile and neutralise tamas and rajas and recreate the personality in accordance with the true nature of the Self. Rajas and tamas can be useful energies, but only if they are regulated by and used in the service of sattva. Since the three gunas are always in flux, even sattva is unstable by nature. When we identify ourselves with the gunas, we are their slave. But when we watch how they move in us, we become their master.
In these sessions, I will help you identify how the gunas are influencing you and gently identify and point you toward the sattvic qualities already alive in you.
“This teaching helps you identify various energies,” says Swartz, “Monitor them and transform them so that you can achieve your goals.” “Guna-knowledge is based on careful observation and analysis of experience.” “Guna-knowledge, knowledge of the big picture, is the solution because it lays the responsibility for what happens to me–good and bad–elsewhere and moves me from the center of my life to the periphery, where the view is much more realistic.”
Meditative concentration stills the states of mind through keeping the mind fixed on the knowledge ‘I am’. Yoga can be viewed as the work of calming the influence of rajas and tamas, and allowing the full power of sattva to manifest. By concentration, the distracting influences of rajas and tamas gradually dissolve, and the sattva quality of mind can blossom into its full potential. A 2008 study found that yoga improved sattva and participant’s general health status (ref).
These sessions may help your localised consciousness (the sense ‘I am’) become untangled from the mind and the imagined world (Maya), resulting in greater harmony, clarity, and wisdom.
“With no disturbing influences, sattva is maximized, and the inherent lucidity of the mind can manifest. Tamas and rajas taint the mind, which is filtering consciousness, distracting it from its source… When these two guṇas are stilled, the mind’s natural lucidity of sattva allows it to peacefully and blissfully contemplate the distinction between the guṇas…”
– Edwin Bryant
According to Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, ‘A person is said to have transcended the guṇas who is situated in detachment and not disturbed by the guṇas; who stands firm and is not affected, thinking: “it is only the guṇas that are operating”; who is situated in the self…” We are not the body’s senses or memories and we are not the mind’s psychological programming or fluctuating qualities. These are just some of the ways we express ourselves as the Absolute – the ultimate Self. Nisargadatta encourages us to go beyond the gunas by watching their influence on us. In nondual therapy, you learn to be aware of the gunas in operation, you watch their expressions in your “internal” and “external” life, and gradually their grip loosens and sattva emerges. In his book ‘I Am That’, Nisargadatta says, “Be what you are, wherever you are and worry not about gunas.”
“…you feel separate from your true Self, and you are trying to become reunited; that is yoga.”
“The Supreme State is universal, here and now; everybody already shares in it… Who does not like to be, or does not know his own existence? But we take no advantage of this joy of being conscious, we do not go into it and purify it of all that is foreign to it. This work of mental self-purification, the cleansing of the psyche, is essential… [The] mistaken idea: ‘I am the body-mind’ causes the self-concern, which obscures… It is useless to fight the sense of being a limited and separate person unless the roots of it are laid bare… Clarification of the mind is Yoga.”
– Nisargadatta Maharaj
“I don’t ask anybody to follow any particular path. I just tell them to be what they are, in their natural, spontaneous state. Stabilize there, in the beingness.”
“Relinquish your habits and addictions, live a simple and sober life, don’t hurt a living being; this is the foundation of Yoga”
– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Bringing Presence into Focus
The body-mind is a vehicle and an instrument for manifesting consciousness—that palpable sense and knowledge of “I am”, beingness” or “presence” that we know either subtly or strongly. We habitually focus consciousness toward the mind and its contents, therefore emphasising them and distorting our fundamental sense of “I am.” Many people live from this perspective of self-consciousness, which is a localised expression of the full breadth of existence. They have no intention or inclination of looking beyond it. They may have glimpses of something expansive and beautiful—a more complete expression of consciousness—but they quickly push away these insights because of the awe and therefore angst of such an encounter.
The immediacy of being—your presence—accompanies you wherever you go and whatever you do, only you’ve inadvertently attached countless ideas and beliefs to it, all of which are inaccurate, making your Aliveness seem static and perishable. At once you exist, then through the play of imagination which gets filtered through desire and fear, you exist as “someone” or “something.” Memory constructs continuity and solidity, and you end up enduring dualistic isolation along with its products of interpersonal isolation and interpersonal loneliness. As an upshot of imagining difference and contrast, you seek out “special” people to make you less lonely and “special” experiences to make you less anxious.
Consciousness itself is nothing perceivable, or imaginable, nor is it caused—it just is. To be, and to know that one exists, is key to Nisarga Yoga. Just being itself is the only assurance and the only certainty needed. Being something is characterised by doubt and insecurity. There’s authenticity in the assertion “I am”; every other is a poor translation of Being. Nothing sticks to you. You are the Source of life, but none of your expressions capture your entirety as that Source.
In these sessions we focus on your sense of simple Being (I am-ness), however subtle or strong. You may come to recognise it as the presence that has been with you every moment of your entire life.
“Nondual healing is fundamentally a process of relaxation, opening and falling back into the essential layers of experience. As energetic blocks or contractions unwind and return to Source, the sky is cleared for a deeper relaxation of the whole system – mental, psychological and physical – into naturalness and health. The release of obstructions can liberate both past and future.”
– Johnson, Georgi Y. Johnson in Nondual Therapy: The Psychology of Awakening
“Inquiry is not a kind of analytic digging… [In contrast to] Western psychology, in which we might delve into further stories in order to understand what caused a current situation, the intention of inquiry is to awaken to our experience exactly as it is..”
– Tara Brach
Desire and Fear – The Forces of Seeking and Suffering
Our habit of inattention and inadvertence causes us to lose sight of our underlying Beingness. Because of this distortion, we perceive a world divided into separate parts (duality), making us view ourselves as fundamentally isolated, incomplete, and insecure. Existence gets distorted by concepts and projections and from these springs the cycle of desire and fear: solitary confinement by way of an obscured lens. According to Nisargadatta Maharaj, desire (rajas) and fear (tamas) are the obscuring and distorting factors.
Raw data get filtered through your conceptual model of the world, a world that’s made of a bundle of ideas, desires, and fears. What you see around you reflects your self-conditioning, your repeated patterns of thoughts, feelings, memories, and habits.
Desire and fear flavour our entertainment, politics, and culture and the messages they broadcast. Just turn on the news at any time or choose a random movie. Desire is deeply rooted in us. It’s what makes us curious about discovery and hungry for fresh understanding. It’s what connects people and what helps us achieve the impossible. On the one hand, desire inspires in us our childlike wonder and our innocent playfulness, and on the other, it makes us childishly greedy and egotistical.
I think of desire as a magnetic pull which makes the body and mind feel restless, penetrating much of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. This infiltration fashions a profound sense of deficiency and expectancy in our identity as a separate self.
Desire is invariably both productive and destructive. Those of us whose lives have been touched and at times devastated by addiction—whether our own or someone else’s—know all too well the creative thinking that gets what’s needed to satisfy the craving, whether it’s a substance or a process addiction. What psychologically motivates us in an addictive state are narratives of desire (“I need a fix to feel complete”) and fear (“I can’t face not having a fix”). Desire leads to fear and fear leads to desire.
Desire has a very close working relationship with fear, although they don’t always get along. In a desiring state we yearn for experience, while in a fearful state, we resist experience. In this way, desire and fear are polar opposites of the same force: desire pulls, fear pushes. When you have a desire, you find a fear, and vice versa. Fear leads to desire and desire to fear. In overlooking our true Self, we rely on things and people to make us happy and secure, and we go to war with, resist, and avoid the things and people that make us unhappy and insecure.
As with desire, the target of fear is always in memory and anticipation, past and future. Fear emerges because we’re so powerfully led to believe we’re self-contained and different from others. Fear is associated with a state of alertness, for “fight, freeze, or flight” and neurochemicals released in a potentially dangerous situation. Such a disposition consequently drains much of our energy. We have fear that is not related to immediate or past threats of danger because we construct ourselves from impermanent sources and we imagine ourselves to be dualistically isolated.
Even babies, before they can talk or conceptualize, are fearful of loud noises and falling. Our psychosocial conditioning sometimes transfers this feeling of threat to other situations where we may not be physically endangered. However, our fears are often not in proportion to real danger, but a response to imagination gone wild, to ego insecurity. We pull people and possessions toward us to feel safe, but attachment and clinging only ever bring more instability.
Ego is preoccupied with desire and fear and fabricates a world of superior and inferior people; nothing frightens it more than emptiness and uncertainty. Ego’s biggest fear is the realisation of its illusory nature, a far worse death, it thinks, than the body dying. That is to say, believing in difference keeps it alive; its mission is to divide and conquer.
It’s sometimes difficult to fathom, but the mind is like a clean and steady lake which reflects absolutely anything on its surface without distortion. Reflections can appear, but the water is untouched. This clarity is the natural condition of the mind, the perfect state to effortlessly meditate on the Self no matter what the body is doing. The mind that has assumed a discerning focus is a discriminating one—not discriminating in the relative sense of judgment about things in the world; absolutely not. It is discriminating in the sense that we unmistakably identify consciousness in everything and that no thing can divide or limit consciousness. A gift of this focus is that we stop identifying with the imaginary and step out of its fear-desire cycle.
“You are not the sensual, emotional and intellectual person, gripped by desires and fears. Find out your real being. ‘What am l?’ is the fundamental question of all philosophy and psychology. Go into it deeply.”
“[The sense of a separate existence] is a reflection in a separate body of the one reality. In this reflection the unlimited and the limited are confused and taken to be the same. To undo this confusion is the purpose of Yoga.”
“Bring your self into focus, become aware of your own existence. See how you function, watch the motives and the results of your actions. Study the prison you have built around yourself by inadvertence. By knowing what you are not, you come to know your self.”
“To reach the deeper layers of suffering you must go to its roots and uncover their vast underground network, where fear and desire are closely interwoven and the currents of life’s energy oppose, obstruct and destroy each other. ”
– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
The Seven Principles of Nisarga Yoga
These sessions provide a blend of facilitated inquiry, spiritual mentoring and coaching, nondual pointing, counselling, and guided meditation, based on the seven principles of Nisarga Yoga:
– Non-identification and right understanding
– Interest and earnestness
– Spontaneity and effortlessness
– Attentiveness to being
– Right action
– Going within to go beyond
– Awareness of Self
I believe you have the capacity to realise who you truly are beyond your current difficulties. This approach to nondual therapy and nondual coaching is a safe, supportive space to identify, explore and work through what seems to be holding you back from living the life that you are – your true Self.
Cost: I offer a sliding scale of £40 to £100 per 50-minute session. You can choose the amount in that range that best meets your financial circumstances.