I’ve just returned from a retreat at one of my favorite places on the planet: Blue Mountain Retreat Center. There’s a funny thing that happens when I’m there. I totally lose track of time. It’s a bit inconvenient, especially when I’m running the retreat and responsible for keeping on the schedule. But it feels like retreats there are set in an unusual kind of timelessness.
The super wise and brilliant teacher Machelle Lee once told me that when our nervous system switches into rest and digest (the parasympathetic side) instead of fight or flight (sympathetic), we lose track of time.
Or maybe more specifically, we lose track of our urgency around time.
While this isn’t exactly the kind of timelessness that the Mandukya Upanishad is talking about, it certainly reminds me of it. The Mandukya Upanishad proposes that Consciousness is beyond time.
Our mind’s state is divided as follows:
- Outwardly focused
We are only connecting to the external world – solving problems, getting things done, responding to information we receive from our senses.
- Inwardly focused
This is sometimes calls the dreaming state where we are replaying our past actions and desires.
- Deep sleep
This is described as a state when there are no actions and no desires.
It goes on to describe what happens when we become more fully aware in each of these three states:
The superconscious state is neither inward or outward, beyond the senses and the intellect…without parts, beyond birth and death…Those who know Consciousness become Consciousness itself.
One of my teachers, Judith Hanson Lasater, talks about how difficult it is to get access to this kind of connection. She explains it like this: the body is always stuck in the past. It is a cumulative experience of all our past movements and lack of movements, injuries, bodily experiences.
Our mind is often concerned with the future. It’s pushing ahead to solve problems and be prepared for whatever we might be expecting to encounter or experience.
But our breath is our best place to get access to the present.
If we can connect mind, body, and breath together, we can stay steady and aware in the present.
Staying present is absolutely not possible when we are in a rush to do something or to get somewhere. When we can slow down and be in each step of the practice as we encounter it, we are cultivating a more purposeful kind of awareness in action and this is the launching point for access to this Consciousness described in the Mandukya Upanishad.
If you want to experience a kind of timelessness that happens on a restorative yoga retreat, registration for my winter retreat is now open!