Seeing The Light Through The Rags

Written by on March 27, 2018 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living, Meditation with 0 Comments

What if our soul is, as poet Mary Oliver says, “pure light that shines where no one is”?

In her poem conveniently titled Poem, Mary Oliver speaks to the notion of the soul like this: “Airy and shapeless thing,/ it needs/ the metaphor of the body. . . to be understood/ to be more than pure light /that burns/ where no one is.” 

But the body, metaphor or not, isn’t an obstacle to transcend on the way to something higher, something deeper. Rather, it is both the avenue to know the True Self, as well as a knowing in and of itself. Truly the marriage of the form and what animates it, the True Self, is the full picture of the human experience.


I’ve always said that poets are yogis with a pen and wield the same searing awareness as sages. Mary Oliver’s inquiry into the nature of the soul is perfectly aligned with Vedanta, ancient yoga philosophy, which states that we all have several layers or sheaths called kosahs which shroud our True Nature. Vedanta says that by practicing awareness to these layers, we come to know what lies beneath. The body isn’t the only metaphor for our True Self. Other koshas, or layers, include our energy body, our thought and emotional body, our subconscious beliefs body, etc.

Vedanta philosophy also says that what is real is the True Self and what is false is the koshas. All the koshas seem very real because we can see, feel, think, or otherwise substantiate them, right?Vedanta says that when we really get down to it, anything that is changeable doesn’t qualify to be the True Self, the part of us that by definition can’t change because it always is.

And here’s the tricky part, even though koshas, the changeable parts of us, aren’t the True Self,  they are the most easily accessible parts to be aware of, and therefore are perhaps the only way in which we can experience and come to know the “pure light” which is awareness itself. 

And how does one substantiate that concept? We come to know ourselves through practices like meditation and yoga, dance and love. Practice to listen. Listen to practice. 

Egyptian Mummies May Prove Cancer Is A Modern DiseaseThese koshas are like mummy wrappings. And while not the most “real” part of our being, give us clues at least to what’s underneath, to what is real. For me, yoga is the dance between that pure light of the True Self and the mummy wrappings of the outer self. Yoga is finding where those two realms meet and converse. Sometimes while dancing with the koshas, we get small glimpses at our pure light and understand the rest of the world with astounding clarity, or at very least can appreciate our bodies, emotions, thoughts, etc. 


The hardest work is not to mistake the wrappings for the light, nor detest the wrappings because they aren’t the light. Eventually we stop seeing the mummy’s wrappings and start seeing simultaneously the wrappings and the light.

Then something really magical happens: we look at someone else and see or sense the same light beneath their wrappings of pain, ego, cynicism, or whatever, even if they neither see us or themselves in that same way. This vision into someone else’s light is compassion at its lowest form and Oneness at it’s highest. When we’ve seen ourselves and others from this deeper vantage point of Oneness, we won’t/can’t go back to not seeing or knowing.

Plus, with this new vision into things as they truly are, we wake up to a beautiful awareness and find heaven in the most ordinary of things, like the breeze on our skin, the smell of garden, or the words on the page. We become astoundingly and exquisitely aware because that is what we are, the pure light of awareness. 

One of the oldest mantras is the world is The Gayatri Mantra which reads:

oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥtatsaviturvareṇyaṃbhargo devasyadhīmahidhiyo yo naḥ prachodayāt– Rigveda 3.62.10

Translated, it says, “Everything in the heavens and in the earth and in between is arising from one effulgent source. If my thoughts, words and deeds reflected a complete understanding of this unity, I would be the peace I am seeking in this moment.”

Sometimes we forget. We forget our true nature. We forget our source.

Yoga means union and is a practice that literally helps us to re-member, to come back together, body and soul, both individually and collectively, until we realize we are all part of the same big source of vital aliveness. We come to realize that this work is never ending that we will always have to work and continue to refine our ability to see.

When we see a lifetime of work ahead of us, it can sometimes feel a bit daunting.  But here’s the good news: IT FEELS GOOD! It feels good to practice. It feels good to see. It feels good to experience the world with this kind of clarity, especially when balanced with yoga’s two tempering qualities of sukam sthirim, of ease and steadiness.  

In Bone, another poem by Mary Oliver, she says this:

 . . . and what the soul is, also

I believe I will never quite know.

Though I play at the edges of knowing,

truly I know

our part is not knowing,

but looking, and touching, and loving,

which is the way I walked on,

softly,

through the pale-pink morning light.

Nailed it! 

She says that we will never know. Not truly. But the degree to which we do know is the ability to simply practice awareness which can happen while looking, touching, and loving. This is the essence of our practice, the practice of every-day living.

May we learn to see, touch, and love. May this practice show us our True Nature and may we see the pure light within everyone and everything. 

Photo by Seneca Moore

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats to places like Hawaii and Amalfi Coast and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program

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