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In yoga we aim for balance. We cultivate our abilities to experience many aspects of life at once: groundedness and lightness, stillness and movement, alertness and relaxation. Little by little, we become better able to step back from the messes of being human and witness ourselves with love and compassion. We create space to hold deep sadness with tenderness, defeat with hope, frustration with some shred of joy. We work to see other people as more than how they present to us, and ourselves as more than the single identity that feels strongest (addict, survivor, mother, child, employee…) But we must remember that this is all a practice. We make mistakes and sometimes it feels as though we have to start all over again. The unexpected hardships and immeasurable joys of life both challenge us and highlight parts of ourselves that we have perhaps never known.

The Atma (or Nirvana) Shatakam, the Song of the Self, was written by a sage in the eighth century. The stanzas summarize the Advaita Vedanta (non-dualistic philosophy) and answer the question Who Am I from a yogic perspective. I love this song because it acknowledges so many of the different identities and ways of being to which we attach, and then states that we are not any of those things. Phew! The good news? We are pure consciousness, pure love.

Atma-Shatakam / Nirvana Shatakam
The Song of the Self
by Adi Shankara
788-820 CE

manobuddhyahamkāra cittāni nāham
NA ca śrotrajihve na ca ghrānanetre
na ca vioma bhūmir na tejo na vāyuh
cidānandarūpah śivo’ham śivo’ham

na ca pranasajño na vai pamcavāyuh
na vā saptadhātur na vā pamcakośah
na vākpānipādam na copasthapāyu
cidānandarūpah śivo’ham śivo’ham

na me dveşarāgau na me lobhamohau
mado naiva me naiva mātsaryabhāvah
na dharmo na cārtho na kāmo na mokşah
cidānandarūpah śivo’ham śivo’ham

na punyam na pāpam na saukhyam na dukhyam
na mantro na tīrtham na vedā na yajña
aham bhojanam naiva bhojyam na bhoktā
cidānandarūpah śivo’ham śivo’ham

na me mṛtyuśamkā na me jātibhedah
pitā naiva me naiva mātā na janmah
na bandhur na mitram gurunaiva śişyah
cidānandarūpah śivo’ham śivo’ham

aham nirvikalpo nirākāra rūpo
vibhutvāca sarvatra sarvemdriyānam
na cāsangata naiva muktir na meyah
cidānandarūpah śivo’ham śivo’ham

1)I am not mind, nor intellect, nor ego, nor the reflections of inner self. I am not the five senses. I am beyond that. I am not the ether, nor the earth, nor the fire, nor the wind (i.e. the five elements). I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.

2) Neither can I be termed as energy (Praana), nor five types of breath (Vaayu), nor the seven material essences (dhaatu), nor the five coverings (panca-kosha). Neither am I the five instruments of elimination, procreation, motion, grasping, or speaking. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.

3) I have no hatred or dislike, nor affiliation or liking, nor greed, nor delusion, nor pride or haughtiness, nor feelings of envy or jealousy. I have no duty (dharma), nor any money, nor any desire (refer: kama), nor even liberation (refer: moksha). I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.

4) I have neither virtue (punya), nor vice (paapa). I do not commit sins or good deeds, nor have happiness or sorrow, pain or pleasure. I do not need mantras, holy places, scriptures, rituals or sacrifices (yajna). I am none of the triad of the observer or one who experiences, the process of observing or experiencing, or any object being observed or experienced. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.

5) I do not have fear of death, as I do not have death. I have no separation from my true self, no doubt about my existence, nor have I discrimination on the basis of birth. I have no father or mother, nor did I have a birth. I am not the relative, nor the friend, nor the guru, nor the disciple. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.

6) I am all pervasive. I am without any attributes, and without any form. I have neither attachment to the world, nor to liberation. I have no wishes for anything because I am everything, everywhere, every time, always in equilibrium. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.

I would add to this beautiful and ancient hymn a verse that speaks to all of us working today to make the world a more peaceful place. To those serving others and those who we serve:

I am not homelessness, I am not trauma, nor am I addiction.
I am not depression, nor anxiety, nor sleeplessness.
I am not sadness, nor fear, nor am I frustration. I am not invisible.
I am, indeed, that eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.

Love,

Jaime Hedlund

Program Manager

Jaime is a long-time volunteer for Street Yoga and currently serves as the Program Manager. She is also a trained practitioner of Integrated Movement Therapy®. To learn more about IMT and schedule a session with Jaime, please contact her at jaime.hedlund@gmail.com

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