How do we get some of that?
In the mind-training manual, Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras, “ānanda” is referred to in verse 1.17. This verse is the first to clue us into the fact that the samādhi state (an ultimate peace-of-mind state) arises and manifests in STAGES.
All yoga practices strive towards this balanced, peaceful mind-state known as samādhi. The many varieties of practice, from āsana poses to breath work, to sensory regulation to mediation remold the psyche in order to unveil the power of consciousness. And it is the power of consciousness that unfolds our greatest evolutionary potential.
Yoga practice in action (PYS 2.1) requires cooperation of our full nature: the willing nature, the thinking nature and the feeling nature, and this is reflected in our Yoga Sūtra verse 1.17:
VITARKA VICĀRA ĀNANDA ĀSMITĀ RŪPA ANUGAMĀT
“Samprajñāta [samādhi] consists of [the consecutive] mental stages of absorption with physical awareness, absorption with subtle awareness, absorption with bliss, and absorption with the sense of I-ness.” – Translation Dr Edwin Bryant
Let’s bottom line these steps of “absorption”: 1. inquiry and investigation 2. imagination and conceptualization 3. emotional insight 4. intuition and inspiration.
Here, following these steps, we direct the will, use our mental faculties and purify feelings until we allow our “self” to expand and open to infinite possibility. We begin with the courser, denser aspects of being, move to the subtler, rest in the blissful… until it becomes second nature to us. For example, in yoga class we begin moving our denser physical body through willful direction. We observe teacher cues and subtle energy currents and our mental reactions. When we rest in Śavasana, our blissful feelings run free. And ideally, at least for a time, we carry this joyful feeling into our daily life, sharing it with others who come into our orbit. I’ve followed these same stages “absorbed” in preparing this article: I started with my research, thought about what I wanted to say, felt my way into its pattern of expression and am sharing it with you.
All endeavors require a type of samādhi – ones as mundane as learning to ride a bike all the way to experiencing the greatest illumination and realization through the power of consciousness.
From course to subtle to blissful to second-nature, Patañjali gives us the practice steps and, perhaps even more masterfully, another secret is revealed: we may deconstruct these stages to transcend, embrace and transform. We can START with cultivating a blissful feeling, practice “thinking” ourselves into it further and generate even more will-power in order to manifest JOY in our lives whenever we want!
The more we practice yoga, the more the body feels well, the more we imagine ourselves fit and capable, the less we worry and fret. Bliss becomes embedded in our psyche, informing all that we do, all that we think, all that we share.
I present my ideas as trained in the Classical Yoga system of Patañjali and the Western Mystery Tradition. “Ānanda” may be explained differently in Buddhist and Tantric systems.