Recently I experienced one of those rare Savasanas that deeply move you, stay with you, and perhaps even change your life. It was a Friday evening, and I had the good fortune to participate in a workshop with Stephanie Quirk in San Diego.
In the two-hour class, Stephanie took us from restful asanas to vigorous ones and back again. We lengthened and pressed the “necks” of the big toes into the floor in Tadasana. In Pincha Mayurasana, we saw that our wrist bones were parallel to one another, with the creases of our elbows perpendicular to the wall. We later connected the “necks” of our toes and our thumbs into the floor in Urdhva Dhanurasana. My lightness and agility increased tremendously as a result of working from these small but mighty actions at the foundation. I could already tell that this workshop was worth the nine hours I had spent in the car.
In Savasana, Stephanie instructed us to allow our shoulder blades to move gently in the direction of each other. This, she told us, would allow the top chest to remain open rather than collapsing inward. While leaving the center sternum alone, we were to imagine the two sides of the sternum spreading out like an array of ultra-fine silvery hairs that we were combing in the same direction. That beautiful metaphor is the last instruction I remember.
Physically exhausted from the drive, mentally exhausted from doing my best to work with alertness in class, and emotionally exhausted from recent life transitions, I surrendered to a deeply restful Savasana. In an enigmatic state somewhere on the borderlands of sleep and the final three limbs of Astanga yoga, time disappeared.
I have no idea how much time passed before I felt a shift. Suddenly all was pure consciousness. Golden light was everywhere, and the center of that light, inexplicably, there appeared a potted tree. The tree was small, elegant and supremely radiant. Green and red orbs - supernal flowers? -pulsed with life along its branches. I could see into the tree, and I witnessed with awe the divine sap flowing.
At some point, I realized that the tree was me. The trunk was my sternum, the sap was my very prana, and I was watching myself live and breathe in supreme repose. The essence of my life, my connection with the divine and the act of witnessing that connection all merged.
That moment of self-consciousness dragged me away from Self-consciousness, and I was back to being a yoga practitioner who is afforded rare and brief glimpses of the infinite. I had a body again, I was in a yoga class again, and my experience was over.
Tears of relief pricked the back of my eyelids and immediately flowed once I was alone. These are the thoughts I remember: I am stronger than I know. I am full, in this and every moment, of divine life essence. It will be with me no matter what happens, because that essence has its own determination to exist no matter what.
I felt, and still feel, immense gratitude for that moment of integration and the confluence of forces that led me to it. It was the deepest relief I have felt in a long time.
Later that night over dinner with a friend, I described the experience and the strength it gave me.
“That’s what those moments are for,” Janus affirmed. “We get these few glimpses from time to time, but we forget. Our job as human beings is to do our best to remember, and to take those moments of understanding and keep them with us as we move forward in life.”
In that very moment the room was filled with beautiful music. We’d been listening to music for quite some time, but this stood out.
“What is this?” I asked. It was “Luminosophy,” a new album from an artist called Kalpataru Tree.
“What’s a Kalpataru Tree?” I wondered. We searched and came across a Wikipedia entry: “Kalpavriksha, also known as kalpataru, kalpadruma and kalpapādapa, is a mythological, wish-fulfilling divine tree said to fulfill all desires.”
I got goose bumps. I knew that I had envisioned the Kalpavriksha inside myself. Suddenly it made sense why I’d envisioned a potted tree: I’ve lived a relatively nomadic adult life up to now. I’ve often thought that my only real abode is within, best accessed on a yoga mat. I take my roots with me, but they go as deep as the universe because my roots are yoga.
Setting aside for a moment the notion that the best way to satisfy desires is to reduce them altogether; I considered my satisfaction and this “wish-fulfilling divine tree.” What if the divine wishing tree is inside of me, and I am the tree? Perhaps I can achieve my goals and dreams, I thought. Maybe I really can have what I want out of life, or at least something close to it. (Sure I can – it just feels like a remote possibility in life’s more challenging times. Like those divine glimpses, we forget.)
Chances are I can’t have experiences like that night’s Savasana every day, but I can work towards them: Practice, breathe deeply, make a willful effort to reach the source. Effortless effort may come one day. In the meantime, I can find contentment in a good Savasana at the end of a good practice. Then I am suffused with a beneficent glow, perhaps the beginnings of Citta Prasadanam and not unlike the golden glow that preceded my vision of Kalpavriksha. It shows me that all is well in this moment – and it opens up the possibility that maybe, just maybe, it will continue to be so.