Not the Body, Not the Mind
Sadhguru speaks about the subtleties of the Isha Kriya practice and how “I am not the body, I am not the mind” is not a slogan, philosophy, or ideology, but a fragrance added so that one can more readily become aware of the breath.
Q: Through daily Shambhavi practice and almost daily Isha Kriya practice, I am beginning to experience my body and mind are not me. How do I distance myself from my body and mind all the time?
Sadhguru: When you say, “I am not the body; I am not the mind” during Isha Kriya, it is not a philosophy or an ideology. It is not a slogan that you keep shouting within yourself and one day become converted. This is a subtle reminder that you add to your breath. Do not use “I am not the body; I am not the mind” to try and psych yourself. You are just adding a certain element to your breath. Otherwise, you are not able to notice your breath. Right now, you are only able to watch the sensations caused by the movement of the air, not the breath itself.
When you are inhaling, not necessarily is only inhalation happening – exhalation could be partly happening as well. Similarly, when you are exhaling, not necessarily is only exhalation happening – inhalation could be partly happening too. But you will not figure this until you notice the way of the breath. Though in many ways, physiologically, the breath is the basis of your life, most human beings have never really experienced their breath. Those who become conscious of just the sensations of the air passage claim all kinds of transformations, and that is true. Your sensations are the outermost layer of who you are. Knowing the sensations is most fundamental. Whatever you touch, whether you sit or stand, there are sensations. The breath is a more profound and subtle dimension which will not come into your experience easily.
Taking the Breath Away
When we say breath in the sense of koorma nadi, we are not talking about the oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange. That is happening as a consequence of what we refer to as shvasa. Along with the transaction of air that is coming in and going out, there is another level of transaction required for the physiological process to happen. Even after a person is medically dead – the movement of air, the heartbeat, and the brain activity have stopped – he is still breathing for some time, in the sense that the koorma nadi is still on. That process is still going on, but it is not able to pull in air and push out carbon dioxide. It is like an old siphon that is still pumping, but the liquid does not flow, because there is a little leak. Similarly, the koorma nadi process is still on, but the oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange has closed down. Suppose the stock exchange closes down - in most people’s understanding, the entire economy is finished, but you can still buy bread locally. Maybe you do not pay in cash but in kind, but the economy is still going on, though not at a level that could be measured. Similarly, the koorma nadi can still be on while the exchange of air has already stopped.
We are talking about becoming aware of the breath, which means you become aware of the link between you and your body. If you take away your breath, obviously you and your body will fall apart. Travelling along the breath will give you access to that dimension. If you learn to hold your body a little away from yourself, you will know you are not the body. If you are wearing loose-fitting clothes, you know these clothes are not you. If you are wearing really tight-fitting clothes, after some time, you do not know whether they are you or not. You experience your skin as “yourself.” Some part of your skin will disappear in no time, but still you are yourself. Even if you go into little deeper layers of the body, still you are yourself.
Adding a Fragrance to the Breath
Do not use “I am not the body, I am not the mind” as a slogan – it will not work like that. This was given to you as an aid to bring awareness to the koorma nadi, or the breath. Shouting slogans is a way of manipulating crowds on the street. You cannot do anything inside with that. When I go to new places in northern India, it is very common that people want to shout, “Sadhguru maharaj ki jai!” I immediately stop them and say, “First, a slogan will come, then a flag, then an emblem, then you will become a nation of your own. And then you will have a national bird!”
“I am not the body, I am not the mind” should happen in a very subtle way to bring the breath into your awareness. With that thought, you are simply adding a little fragrance to your breath so that you can notice it. It is like lighting incense to see where the air is moving. If it is moving gently, you would not know otherwise. Just like that.
Editor’s Note: Rooted in the timeless wisdom of the yogic sciences, Isha Kriya is a simple yet potent process created by Sadhguru. Available for free as a guided meditation with an instructional video and downloadable instructions, or through one of the free immersive workshops conducted globally, it has the potential to transform the life of anyone who is willing to invest just 12 minutes a day. Available on Sadhguru app and online.
A version of this article was originally published in Isha Forest Flower June 2017.