by Barrie Risman
Recently I came across this picture of myself as a young child. One of things that struck me is that while the 3 year-old in the photo is almost a completely different person from the 45 year-old woman looking at it, there is a part of that little girl that is still me.
That unchanging essence I sensed while looking at the photo is expressed in the concept of sat, which comes to us from the Vedantic tradition of yoga philosophy. Sat is the experience of an underlying ground of our own being that never changes. It is the deepest essence of oneself, not subject to the effects of the temporal world. Sat also means truth in the sense of an eternal truth, it is that which holds true at all times and in all places.
Yoga is about returning to oneself in this deepest sense. During most of our day, our awareness and attention is likely (and necessarily) focused outward on actions, tasks, conversations. In yoga, we turn our awareness back into ourselves. The first thing we do in class is sit, close our eyes, and become aware of our breathing. We start to turn our attention inside.
During the class, through consciously moving the body and engaging with the breath, we deepen this inner connection. Perhaps we even glimpse that awareness of sat – the underlying, unchanging ground of our own being.
When we touch this place of our deepest, unchanging essence it feels like coming home in the truest sense. It is a space that is comforting, nourishing and replenishing. It is like sitting in the most familiar, welcoming and warm home, and yet it is within us, available at anytime, anywhere. The experience of sat is at once as familiar as our own breath, and at the same time always refreshing and new.