There’s a sūtra that I’ve always loved,1.36 viśokā vā jyotiṣmatī. It describes an inner resource that some people have (or discover) when they are navigating a difficulty in life. My teachers share the meaning in this way; There’s a place within us that is full of light and untouched by grief. For those who are able to connect with this place during difficult times, it can keep the difficulty from becoming an obstacle. Our connection to this special place within can help us to get through.
I’ve always thought of this place as calm, peaceful and almost mystical. Imagine one of those religious paintings where the sunlight is streaming through bright clouds to indicate that God is there. That’s what I imagine that my insides look like…full of light – jyotiṣmati. This feeling is beautiful, it’s an ideal, and it transports me to a pleasant place in my mind, but I realized it might be more fantasy than something I’ve actually experienced in my body. During times when something really horrible or frightening or devastatingly sad has happened, I can’t say that there was any way for me to put on the half smile, go inside to feel rays of radiant sunshine pouring through me.
Something occurred to me during work with a student in the last few weeks. This student was practicing yoga in the midst of a scary and life-upending event. It was one of those things that marks life in periods of “before” and “after.” And in the quiet moments between all the upheaval, do you know what she found right along with all the fear, uncertainty about the future, the hurt and the anger? She found an inner resource that assured her she was going to survive this. She had energy and clarity that let her know, even with all that was going on, she was going to be okay. There was still pain and hurt, but it was eclipsed by this special knowing. Once you feel that, I don’t think it goes away. It’s yours. It’s something you can come back to. It’s full of energy and light. Viśokā vā jyotiṣmatī
I know this feeling. It isn’t light shining through the clouds, but more like a raw, deep and primal survival feeling. It comes with a certainty that know I can do what it takes to make it through. The feeling came to me when I was at my most vulnerable. It was during this time that I found a super-power underneath all the stories I had told myself about who I was and what I was capable of. When all of those stories exploded, that survival superpower was there and I knew that not only would I make it through the shit show, but I was different because of it. I have within me a source of power that is connected to something fierce, sturdy and powerful and will fight to fully live.
I think this might be what Patañjali is talking about in I.36. This place isn’t touched by grief or sorrow. It’s powerful. It’s connected to survival. Not everyone has encountered the place within that will blaze and burn brightly with clarity and strength when things seem at their darkest. But for those who have, it is a resource, a deeply kindled super-power that keeps even the most devastating events from holding us down.